July 19: Sputtering light

NAOMI L. NAKAO: My father used to say, "Israel is a light to all nations." I never thought much about this until recently, when I wished it were true.

Sputtering light Sir, - I am an Israeli expatriate, born in 1946. I have always loved my homeland and been proud to be an Israeli. My father used to say, "Israel is a light to all nations." I never thought much about this until recently, when I wished it were true. When Cpl. Gilad Shalit was taken by Hamas, a nation that is a light to all others would have said: "Yes, our neighbors in Gaza, we do indeed plan to return your [jailed] women and children. But that is not all; we will provide a stipend of $20,000 for every freed Palestinian child to study, and $20,000 for every freed Palestinian woman to plant her vegetable garden, and provide a little bit for her family. We will call this the Gilad Shalit Fund." A deed like this, which would cost Israel less than a half a day of war, would surely turn the Middle East around. My uncle, Andrew Loew, a Holocaust survivor who learned on his own flesh what it is like to be a Jew without a homeland, encouraged me to write this letter to you ("Red Cross demands that soldiers' captors allow links to families," July 14). NAOMI L. NAKAO New York Peace monologue Sir, - Paul Kokoski perfectly demonstrates the naive thinking prevalent in this "nation of peacemakers" ("Sincere dialogue," Letters, July 17). Just one question for you, sir. With exactly whom should Israel conduct "sincere dialogue" when her enemies are openly seeking her utter destruction? STEPHEN TANNENBAUM Thornhill, Ontario Sir, - The Palestinian people elected Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel. By electing Hamas, weren't they saying they do not want peace? SCOTT BOA Ingersoll, Ontario Unequivocal support... Sir, - "Correct the damage" (Editorial, July 16) stated that "the leader of only one nation, the United States... has been unequivocal in his support for Israel's position." I wish to point out that Canada's prime minister firmly supports Israel. Responsibility for the escalating violence in the Middle East rests entirely with those who have kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. Harper, on his first major international foray, hadn't even touched down in Europe before aligning himself firmly with the US and Israel. "Israel has the right to defend itself... I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured." While many countries are urging restraint, Harper told The London Free Press, an Ontario-based newspaper: "The onus to end this escalation is on the other side... it's essential Hizbullah and Hamas release their Israeli prisoners, and any countries in that area that have influence on these organizations should encourage an end to violence and recognize - and encourage the recognition of - Israel's right to exist." SAMUEL MILLER Montreal ...pity you were wobbly Sir, - Your editorial writer praised the Bush administration for its unequivocal support of Israeli actions in Lebanon. Too bad the Americans were less than supportive of Israeli military actions to prevent the firing of Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip in the past two years. Indeed, had the Bush administration been more supportive of the past two Israeli governments in their determination to carry out effective military reprisals for the Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the present round of fighting in Lebanon and Gaza might well have been avoided altogether. KENNETH S. BESIG Kiryat Arba Sir, - I believe most of the world understands what Israel has to do. Even the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians are critical of Hizbullah. It seemed like the eighth wonder of the world when they actually said it ("Arab world fed up with Hizbullah," July 18). If this is genuine, I am sincerely impressed. Part of me cannot believe it, but part of me absolutely can because it is in everyone's interest to defeat organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas, whom no compromise on earth will satisfy. NATALIE ROSEN Framingham, Massachusetts History's hard lessons Sir, - Alexander Zvielli's From Our Archives is a most interesting, and often instructive, feature. For example, he cited a July 16, 1981 report in which "three Jews were killed in the heavy terrorist shelling of Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona." Apparently many people, such as David Forman, have not learned from history, and nowadays many more Jews are being killed, maimed or traumatized by terrorist attacks in their own homes and settlements. I name Rabbi Forman for, juxtaposed with the Archives report was his absurd proposal that Israel "release as many Palestinian prisoners as possible" ("Prisoners are no asset," July 16). Does your writer lack the intellectual integrity to call so many of those prisoners what they were, and will again be, if released - murderous terrorists? Can he and we not learn from contemporary history and not release murderers, thereby perhaps obviating a future archival reference to many more murdered innocent Israelis? MOSHE BERLIN Jerusalem Sir, - Rabbi Forman makes two points. First, he claims many innocent Palestinians are in Israeli jails. I presume he would not make such a statement without solid proof. If he has proof, let him present it to the courts so the innocents can be released. Secondly, he argues that first-time offenders often become hardened criminals, which is certainly true. But he offers no other solution for dealing with such people. If he has one, I hope it will first be tried out in some other country because until it is proven to work, I will feel much safer walking the streets under the current system. JOAKIM ISAACS Jerusalem Showing what's what and who's who Sir, - There is no question Israel has the right to attack Hizbullah in Lebanon, and most of the world knows it. Every talking head on television says a cease-fire is not in the cards. This is escalating quickly, and now that Iran has instigated this war it'll do whatever it can to keep it going. Israel has always done the unexpected and, at this point, since nobody expects a cease-fire, perhaps it's the smart thing to do. Israel is better than her enemies, and the mounting civilian death toll in Lebanon weighs heavy on her collective conscience. If the Israeli government, on its own terms, declared a 48-hour cease-fire to ease the suffering of the Lebanese people, moderate Arab states would be eager to negotiate the release of captive soldiers. It would be a gesture that would show Israel's character and expose Hizbullah, Syria and Iran as the true enemies of Lebanon and the world. GARY TAUSTINE New York Show 'em the door Sir, - Democracies have a difficult time when they are at war. Freedom of the press has to be curtailed. Censorship of our reports - where and when enemy rockets fall - must be enforced. But also, and obviously, Arab reporters whose reports help guide Hizbullah's artillery toward their targets in our country must be shown the door. These restrictions must be implemented immediately. Victory and defeat are in the balance ("IDF censor issues guidelines for media," July 17). AVIGDOR BONCHEK Jerusalem Hear us, O Israel Sir, - Israel has every right to protect its territories and its people by attacking the enemy. We Indians are fully supporting Israel. Both countries are being affected by Islamic fundamentalists. We support the actions against the Palestinians and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Israel will succeed in the war. T.S. PRAKASAM TAMILIAN President, Indo-Israeli Friendship Association Mannargudy, Tamilnadu State India Sir, - It is with great satisfaction that, for once, cause and effect of the latest events have been correctly and clearly stated - in stark contrast to the position of our own Swiss foreign minister, who does not refrain from infringing on our policy of strict neutrality by airing her markedly leftist ideology clearly favoring a decidedly pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab position. This letter is to reaffirm to the Israeli people that this is by no means the opinion of all Swiss people. You have every right to defend your country! And to those who sing the song of moralism and so-called peace (perhaps more to do with appeasement) from their relatively safe places in western Europe, let them attend to their own business, or else we may be facing similar ordeals sooner rather than later. CHARLES U. SCHNEITER Basel, Switzerland Sir, - Hizbullah's provocation was outrageous. Israel has the right to defend itself from any threat and the IDF is doing its best to defend the Israeli people. SHAMAL SEROCHKI Sara, Kurdistan Sir, - I am helping your fight for survival by always referring to Israel as Judea - and when some folks look at me funny is when I start my little summary of the history of Judea. LILIANA HUNIU Torrance, California Sir, - Like many Americans, I have never been to Israel. I do look forward to visiting there someday in an atmosphere of peace, safety and stability. I am confident that Israel will defend itself, and that the friendship between our countries will grow stronger each day. I am one of tens of millions here who pledge their support, prayers and, if necessary, their lives, to our allies in Israel. RANDAL BEEMAN Bakersfield, California A call to arms Sir, - "Chabad drafts both tefillin and charity in war effort" (July 18) reminded me of a Post article during the abortive Israeli-Lebanese peace talks in the '80s. A Chabad group outside the Israeli hotel where the talks were taking place mistook a Lebanese negotiator for a member of the Israeli team and asked him to put on phylacteries. Declining politely, the Lebanese delegate quipped, "The peace talks haven't progressed that far." YONATAN SILVER Jerusalem