July 12: Johnston's freedom...

The manner of his release meant audiences around the world were able to judge for themselves.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Johnston's freedom... Sir, - I'm sorry Geoffrey Alderman feels unable to celebrate the release, unharmed, of Alan Johnston ("Why I'm not joining the party," July 11). His explanation? On June 1 Alan was forced - at gunpoint - to deliver what Alderman describes as a "full-blown diatribe" against Israel and the West. To suggest that Alan did this of his own free will, and to accuse him of sacrificing "truth, honor and professionalism" during his 114 days' captivity, is beneath contempt. Johnston was held, in solitary confinement, in a windowless room, for 16 weeks on the most basic of rations. Several times his captors threatened to kill him - at one stage he was forced to wear an explosive belt. Does Alderman really think Alan was in a position to defend his "professional integrity," whatever the risk? He did what he had to do. Alderman compares Johnston's case with that of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to reveal a source. Contempt of court is a serious offense - but it is not yet a capital crime. Miller was never sentenced to death. Indeed, she served just 85 days rather than the 114 Alan spent incarcerated in a basement cell. Both paid a huge price in the cause of journalism. Johnston is in the finest traditions of the BBC - objective, impartial, with real integrity. The manner of his release meant audiences around the world were able to judge for themselves. Alan's freedom is a cause to celebrate - in Britain and beyond. It is a shame that Geoffrey Alderman's apparent lack of compassion and understanding prevents him from doing so. JON WILLIAMS World News Editor BBC News London ...why he was let go, and what he said Sir, - After reading Geoffrey Alderman's reasons for not celebrating Alan Johnston's release from captivity I agree with him, but might add that he omitted to mention one thing that made it possible - Mr. Johnston is not Jewish! Furthermore, Mr. Johnston was right when he said in the video released on June 1 that "we, the British, are completely to blame" for "causing all the trouble" in the Middle East - but for far different reasons than those he stated. Aiming to divide and conquer and get their hands on the region's oil reserves, they carved up the territory after World War I, creating artificial states such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, taking no account of the different tribes and loyalties of the various populations in the area. The BBC supports Johnston's reportage, which, as Mr. Alderman pointed out, was biased toward the Palestinians. It has added agitprop to its agenda. ALIZA WEINBERG Rehovot Our 'N' word Sir, - As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I was pained to read about the incident in which a Justice Ministry attorney slapped MK Ya'acov Cohen. I was equally pained by the MK previously having dubbed him "worse than the Nazis." The use of this vile word brings to mind the despised 'N' word in the US. If an elected official dared use it, there would be a public outcry and the official would, at the very least, have to make a public apology. We here should demand that our 'N' word never be used in public discourse ("Justice official slaps haredi lawmaker," July 11). KENNY FISHER Jerusalem Perspective, please Sir, - I was flabbergasted to read on page 1 of your July 6 issue: "Israel urged to 'act now' or face global warming disaster." We are just seven million people out of seven ,i>billion inhabitants of this planet. The predicted disaster will be a sum total of behavior of those 7 billion, of which the US, EU, Japan and China are the main actors. Tiny Israel cannot avoid the disaster even if we stopped all industrial activity and contamination. Sure we can contribute - but this terrifying article was misleading. I urge you to put the whole question in perspective. DR. MAX RESNIK Plant Physiologist Neot Ahva From down under Sir, - I completely agree with Irwin Cotler on the need for "comprehensive, inclusive and multilayered strategy to secure the future of Israel and the Jewish people" ("A dearth of strategic thinking," July 10). Yes, demography is an issue. It always has been. So are the pincer-threats of anti-Semitism and assimilation. To be secure and prosper, sound planning is essential. Here's a snapshot from down under. In Australia, our communities engage in strategic planning both to address existential threats and ensure a strong, vibrant community into the coming decades. Since the early 1980s we have prioritized our investment in Jewish day schools. Roughly six out of 10 Jewish children attend a Jewish day school, and in NSW at least, we ensure Jewish education for children who are in public schools. Through our Jewish Communal Appeal we have brought our schools together to put a lid on the costs of day school education. Through the Board of Deputies we have established an Education Secretariat to ensure that the Jewish education sector, like other faith-based schools, is effectively represented to government and in the wider multicultural Australian community. Assimilation, while worrying, has not - and if our investment in education works - will not grow to North American levels. We now also have to fund the increasing needs of an aging population. Our levels of tzedaka are rising, through hard work, much faster than our population. We anticipate that this will enable us to provide adequately for those burgeoning needs. Political security is essential. Fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for Israel are two sides of the same coin. Recent Australian parliaments have passed motions condemning anti-Semitism and warning of the inherent dangers in failing to discern between reasonable criticism and unbalanced, unfair slander of Israel, Zionism and Jewish people. We must be forthright in making the simple point that those who consider themselves anti-Zionist believe that all nations except the Jewish nation are entitled to the right of self-determination. That position is racist, dangerous and anti-Semitic, and we have not been afraid to say so, the time for sophistry having long since passed. I wish those invited to the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute's Conference on the Future of the Jewish People much success in their deliberations. DAVID D. KNOLL, President NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Sydney, Australia Prophet & loss Sir, - Re "Jewish continuity conference rapped over absence of haredim" (July 11), the haredi community should not feel insulted. The conference organizers would also not have invited the Prophet Isaiah, who would be judged as not being able to "converse with a broader public that didn't share his assumptions" or be able to "use universally understood terms and language." MORDECHAI SPIEGELMAN Jerusalem For the record Sir, - I was surprised to read in Grapevine (June 27) that during a tour of Jerusalem I organized for honorary consuls under the auspices of Gad Nashitz, head of the honorary consular community, I "repeated several times" a "mantra" urging the honorary consuls to put pressure on "promoting Jerusalem as the capital and natural site" for their embassies. The idea of Jerusalem as the correct site for foreign embassies was indeed raised during the tour. But it was in the assembly hall of the Jerusalem Municipality; and the speaker was Mr. Uri Lupolianski, the mayor of Jerusalem. As an honorary consul, I fully appreciate my role as a representative of another country - Chile - and I have adopted a clear and unambiguous policy of remaining politically neutral. I have never and would never make any political statement in this capacity. What is true is that I did express a "mantra," as Ms. Cashman called it: my honest expression of love and admiration for the city of my birth, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel; but my statements were devoid of any political connotation, let alone "urging" political action. YEHORAM GAON Jerusalem