February 9: Unjustified criticism...

What does Jeff Barak want? A declaration that Israel will meet Assad’s precondition for a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights?

Unjustified criticism...
Sir, – Jeff Barak, implying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unaware of the danger of the Syrians threatening to destroy our cities, attacks him for being “too busy” to pursue ways to bring the Syrians to the negotiating table (“Where are Netanyahu’s priorities?,” February 8). This, despite Netanyahu’s repeated call to meet with Assad in any place, to negotiate peace. What does Barak want? A declaration that Israel will meet Assad’s precondition for a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights?
He also states that it has escaped Netanyahu’s notice that the Iranian regime is still refusing to halt its nuclear program, despite the prime minister’s repeatedly stating to world leaders that the Iranian threat is the most important matter to be addressed in dealing with Middle East problems. What is he implying? That we should attack Iran on our own, at this stage?
Barak may have been disappointed with Netanyahu’s address to the Herzliya Conference, but this should not have been an excuse for the further unjustified criticisms.
    MONTY M. ZION    Tel Mond
... and justified retorts
Sir, – Thanks to Herb Keinon for his report that “Lieberman sticks to his guns on Syria” (February 7). The foreign minister’s retort to Syria’s threat to attack Israeli cities in the event of war – which sounds like a war crime announced in advance – was mild by comparison. Lieberman’s statement was that, in such a war, Syria would not only lose militarily, but “neither President Assad nor his family will remain in power.” Now, that’s a direct caution against war if I’ve ever heard one, and in a language that the Syrian president can understand.
Lieberman, diplomatically, did not spell out what he meant by “family.” But Assad knows it full well – the entire Alawite dictatorship, representing only some 10 percent of Syria’s population, suppressing the Sunnis, who represent three-quarters.
We can only hope that one day, without war, the constituent parts of Syria will be free and homogeneous enough not to dread democracy in a confederacy. A Sunni democracy in Damascus will know what the people know already: that radical Shi’a Iran, not Israel, is its true enemy. If the freed Sunni middle class is finally allowed to assert itself and prosper, it might also manage to prevent an internal rise of radical Islamism. Even sovereignty over the Druse Golan could be revisited under such circumstances.
    AARON BASHANI    Jerusalem
Take war stories seriously
Sir, – The main reason Larry Derfner’s article “War stories our daughters won’t tell” (February 5) must not be swept under the carpet is that the witnesses to the alleged misconduct by IDF soldiers came from other soldiers, not from outsiders.
Even though witnesses refused to be personally identified for fear of reprisals, the IDF must take their testimonies seriously by examining each and every case and delivering a just verdict. Not to do so would truly be criminal.
One way the army might be able to avoid similar incidents in the future would be if the medics assigned to each combat unit were given a certain amount of psychology training so they would be in a better position to spot any soldier who showed signs of stress. These soldiers could then be referred to psychiatrists before any shameful act was committed.
Of course, the only way to solve this problem completely is to finally find a way to make peace with our enemies.
    P. YONAH      Shoham 
Anti-Semitism by any other name
Sir, – According to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “there is absolutely no place for racism” (Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK at highest level since records began,” February 7). I think there is reason to separate attacks against Jews from “racism.”
Whether the Jew is hated for his race or his religion, it is not as part of a broad hatred; it is specifically Jew-hatred. Even the term anti-Semitism is not appropriate, because Arabs are Semites, and many of them hate Jews. Certainly the term “racism” is too vague, general and confusing if we are speaking, as in this article, about specific attacks against specific Jews in the UK.
    JACOB CHINITZ    Jerusalem
A welcome ulpan change
Sir, – This note is quite overdue, but you can blame it on the due diligence of a student at Ulpan Beit Mitchell. After the scare we got last December, when it was strongly hinted that the ulpanim of Jerusalem were about to be summarily closed, it was gratifying to read your article “Immigrant Absorption Ministry looks to reform Hebrew ulpan system, upgrade teaching methods” (February 3), which assures us that the ulpan system will be made more workable.
Certainly from the viewpoint of an older new immigrant, the ulpanim are of supreme importance in our desire to become integral, functioning members of Israeli society. And without at least a modicum of Hebrew to enable the reading of incoming bills and the understanding of automated switchboards that are in either Hebrew or Russian, we English-speakers are in very deep trouble.
Thank you to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry for easing our concerns on the matter.
    GOLDIE SPIELER     Jerusalem
Sir, – I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of your article on ulpanim.
We made aliya three years ago. Before that, I was a teacher and psychologist in the UK for more than 30 years.
I specialized in teaching and learning methods and was very disappointed, when attending ulpan, to find outdated methods being used.
I went to three very different ulpanim, in addition to private lessons. My Hebrew is still nowhere near good enough for me to work in it, and many Anglos end up at English-speaking jobs for that very reason, rather than integrating into the society in which they’ve chosen to live.
The only ulpan I found effective was Ulpan Morasha, but unfortunately, one can’t continue there after five months, as there is no further class into which to progress.
I, for one, would welcome a modernized daily ulpan, and I know that many of my friends would be prepared to devote the time and energy to such an ulpan to achieve a useful and working level of spoken Hebrew.
    LYNNE SHAFFER     Jerusalem
Rights of passage
Sir, – Turning bat or bar mitzva is a right, not a rite (“Bar mitzva reply,” February 7).
However, what you do after you reach the right age may well become a rite, and not a right.
    LITA ARKIN    Jerusalem
Bad publicity? No such thing
Sir, – The envoy whose accreditation was rejected by three Arab statesshould not be perturbed about the adverse publicity (“Arabs nixPakistani envoy whose name means ‘large male genitals,’” February 8).As someone once said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me aslong as they spell my name right.”
The Jerusalem Post has been assured by the Zochrot organization that itdoes not receive funding from the New Israel Fund (“Who’s demonizingwho?,” February 8).