January 20: A dubious comparison?

Our humanitarian aid to Gaza, including providing lifesaving care in our hospitals to those in need, is well publicized but totally ignored by our critics from abroad.

A dubious comparison?
Sir, - The latest article by Gershon Baskin calls for a reply ("Israel - a leader among the community of nations," January 19). To equate the horrendous human tragedy suffered by Haitians with the so-called suffering of the residents of Gaza is not acceptable. Our humanitarian aid to Gaza, including providing lifesaving care in our hospitals to those in need, is well publicized but totally ignored by our critics from abroad, bolstered by arguments such as those propounded by our own journalists. The blockade we impose on Gaza is designed to limit the entry of missiles, which will continue to be released on Israeli civilian areas. If the entry of more aid for the Gazans is needed, why is their border with Egypt closed?
Finally, I dispute Baskin's claim that we ask to see all of the gory details of the destruction, including hundreds of corpses, on the streets of Port-au-Prince, but we wish to see none of the human suffering of our Palestinian neighbors in Gaza.
Sir, - It is not often that I agree with the political opinions of Gershon Baskin, but his point that Israel should have cooperated with the Goldstone Commission was well made.
On the other hand, when he writes about the population of Gaza, I should like to know what proof he has that "perhaps even most of them would like to live in peace with us." If this is true, how is it that they voted for a Hamas regime?
Bringing tikkun olam for one's enemies into the equation is a specious argument: Israelis - like people the world over - are ordinary human beings, not special beings, and in time of war, no ordinary human beings are expected to extend tikkun olam to their enemies.
Uniting to help each other
Sir, - So many reports about the IDF rescue teams in Haiti ("Birth of baby 'Israel' a rare highlight as IDF rescue teams confront Haiti disaster," January 18) prove a traditional Chinese saying that "a friend in need is a friend indeed."
In August 2009, Taiwan was hit by the disastrous typhoon Morakot, and the Israeli government immediately sent 200 water purifiers and other water purification equipment to help Taiwan. Our people are very grateful for what Israelis did then.
Now Haiti has been hit by the biggest earthquake in 240 years. IDF units deployed soon after the tragedy happened and saved many lives.
After the havoc, Taiwanese search and rescue teams - along with 15 searching and civil engineering specialists and 2,000 kg. of equipment and medical supplies, including life detectors - reported to a UN coordination center to share assignments to search for people buried under the collapsed central government building. They have already saved four lives in two days. Another team of 33 medical specialists has also arrived to help.
Our government has already announced a donation of $5 million to aid Haiti. Many NGOs in Taiwan, like Buddhist Tzu Chi Fund, Dharma Drum Mountain Fund and World Vision-Taiwan are all promoting fundraising to help the victims and their families. Some 70 metric tons of food, drinking water and medical goods provided by NGOs have been air-freighted in. Taiwan will also send 200 metric tons of rice in April.
We are all living in a small global village. We must unite to help each other.
LIANG-JEN CHANGTaipei Economicand Cultural OfficeTel Aviv
Obama's challenges
Sir, - Charles Krauthammer attributes Obama's falling poll numbers to his leftist policies ("One year out: Obama's fall," January 18). However, he fails to consider some very important facts:
• When Obama entered office, the US and the world were on the brink of a possible depression; while economic conditions are still far from satisfactory, they have stabilized, and a major economic catastrophe has been avoided for now.
• Obama is facing a united Republican party whose prime objective seems to be that Obama fail so they can return to office.
• Facing a constant threat of filibusters and with just enough votes to defeat a filibuster only if every Democratic and Independent senator gives support, Obama and the Democrats have been forced to make changes and make deals that have weakened their standing among various voting blocs.
I am disappointed like many others by the lack of progress so far, but I wonder about the alternative: a return to the disastrous policies of George W. Bush's eight years that turned a major budget surplus into a major deficit, entangled the US in two costly wars that are difficult to win or get out of, reduced governmental regulations that could have prevented economic meltdowns, and lowered the image of the US throughout the world.
Norwegian principles...
Sir, - Norway and Israel share a respect for core democratic principles ("Lieberman: No more gestures to Palestinians," January 18), but unlike Norway, we as a democracy do not tolerate anti-Semitism. Ostensibly, Norway and Israel also share a respect for the truth in the Western cultural canon. However we, as the People of the Book, reject cultural works infused with racial hatred, however subtle and apparently indirect. Anti-Semitism is never far from the surface in Knut Hamsun's works, nor in those of his canonical peers.
Maimonides ruled that we "must accept the truth from whatever source it comes." Ultimately, the issue of Hamsun, et al., is not whether their works contain truth; rather it is the untruth in their oeuvre that prevents us from accessing that truth.
... and Turkish friendships
Sir, - I read Liat Collins's article with great sadness ("Turkish dramas," January 17). My husband and I have been frequent visitors to Turkey over the last 10 years and have watched its rapid growth into a vibrant country, trying desperately to modernize itself so it could join the European Union without losing its individuality. What an asset Turkey would be - hard-working, inquisitive with a growing economy, and situated at the crossroads between the West and Asia, where it could be a wonderful mediator.
But the West seems to have turned its back on Turkey, forcing it to turn to Asia. What a serious mistake politically for the West. Do they really not understand how important it is for them to have Turkey as their ally?

And what a tragedy for Israel and Jews. For centuries the Jewishpeople had a safe haven in Turkey, from the rule of the Ottomans upto modern times. Israelis have traded extensively with them andtoured their beautiful country in the thousands. But with the West'scooling toward and non-recognition of Turkey, it has had to chose itsallies. Erdogan is only too willing to turn toward Asia, and we inIsrael are being squeezed out of the equation. Our erstwhile friendseems not to want to play with us any more.

Over the years, wepersonally have traced our Jewish roots there, seen the wonders ofIstanbul and spent many wonderful months sailing and touring aroundthe country's South. We have literally fallen in love with the landand its people, who are so warm, and among whom we have made so manyfriends. Like Liat, we also realize that it is "not all peaceand light," but discussions have nearly always ended amicably -and like her, we have firm contacts with many friends, sharing goodfortune and tragedies.
But what do we do this summer? Is thisto be the next country in which we will not feel welcome? Or arethese political problems just a blip, and after Pessah we'll be ableto pack our bags and see the real Turks who want to be ourfriends?