July 20: Light to the nations

BARUCH FREESMAN: Even a pacifist is not excused from acting intelligently and wisely.

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
Light to the nations... Sir, - Naomi L. Nakao is doubtless a kindly person ("Sputtering light," Letters, July 19). However the $20,000 she suggests Israel donate to each Palestinian child released from prison would doubtless subsidize their further indoctrination in jihad at Palestinian and UNRWA schools and Palestinian universities. The $20,000 for every freed Palestinian woman "to plant her garden" would instead subsidize her family in great style while she could join the 100 Palestinian women recently reported to have trained to become suicide bombers ("Palestinian militias recruit women for paramilitary, suicide bomber squads," July 19). Many decent, peace-loving people do not understand, or prefer to deny, the immense culture gap, on the other side of which jihadist martyrdom is deemed the highest aspiration. Militant Islam has brilliantly conditioned this mind-set, which was relatively dormant until the past few decades. As well as newspapers, Western Web sites such as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) and MEMRI provide ample evidence of the daily incitement to jihad, while Hamas has its own similar Web site, with a section in English. DAPHNE BURDMAN Jerusalem Sir, - Please, as Naomi L. Nakao so movingly wrote, be a light unto the nations, be as surprising as Anwar Sadat was from their side - not grudgingly and incrementally as Kadima has been, but all in one supremely generous gesture for peace. That would be the most just and moral thing you could do; it would spellbind the world. See the level of international support, and how good you would feel about yourselves, and the abatement of extremism throughout your neighborhood, and the onset of peace and security for yourselves and your children. JAMES ADLER Cambridge, Massachusetts Sir, - Naomi L. Nakao suggests that we up the peace ante by not only releasing the prisoners the Palestinian kidnappers want but also by providing a grubstake to help the freed youngsters take up constructive lives. I think we did much the same thing in Gaza. Not only did we pull our settlers out, as the Palestinian Authority wanted, we left the agricultural infrastructure in order to give our opponents a head start on a profitable, peaceful life there. Instead they wrecked the greenhouses and used the land as a base for shelling our citizens. As Bibi Netanyahu used to say, "The Middle East is not the Middle West." MARK L. LEVINSON Herzliya Sir, - Naomi Nakao would like us to be "a light to all nations," but her proposal to free Palestinian prisoners and finance them for supposed educational and agricultural endeavors would most likely turn our people into an extinguished light. SHARON LINDENBAUM Rehovot Sir, - I have been a pacifist all my life. Often I have been rejected even by dear friends who say that in this world mine is a Quixotic agenda. My agenda is live, and let live. I choose life. I am for peace. I might, for myself, even choose death rather than renounce my pacifist values - but today terrorists are aiming their guns at my children and grandchildren. Even a pacifist is not excused from acting intelligently and wisely. We are now being confronted by fanatics whose agenda is death to others and martyrdom for themselves. We must declare unequivocal war on them. BARUCH FREESMAN Toronto ...and to ourselves Sir, - Is it possible that one Muslim claim against the West is justified? Anjem Choudray, leader of a UK Islamist group, in a BBC interview last February rejected the suggestion that he accommodate himself to democratic norms. "If you put me in the jungle," he argued, "should I behave like an animal?" Is his comparison of Western society to a jungle legitimate? Muslim Brotherhood theologian Sayyid Qutb wrote after spending a year in the US about the emptiness of American life, the materialism, the hedonism, the cultural impoverishment and headlong pursuit of commercial advantage over purer, more austere virtues. He condemned the bestiality of Yankee youth and described American women as animalistic temptresses (see Michael Gove's Celsius 7/7, 2006). There is little difference between Qutb's strictures and those of Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996), in which US Judge Robert H. Bork talks of "an enfeebled, hedonistic culture," of rap songs calling for killing policemen or the sexual mutilation of women, of the collapse of the criminal justice system, the rising rate of illegitimate births, the uninhibited display of sexuality, homosexuality and the popularization of violence. In Hole in our Soul (1994) American Martha Bayles, tracing the path by which the anarchistic, nihilistic impulses of the European avant-garde have been grafted onto popular music, laments pop singers who reduce love to softcore pornography and "gangsta" rappers who sell more records when under indictment for assault, rape and murder. Prof. Gertrude Himmelfarb's The De-moralization of Society - From Victorian Values to Modern Values (1995) deals with the breakdown of family, the deliberate moral neutrality of schools, and rising crime rates. And Israel? Little, if anything, of what is recorded above is not found here. Islam is not the answer - that "cure" would be worse than the disease. But perhaps we should look at ourselves in the mirror, recoil from the ugliness - and rise into the light, guided by our own traditions. MEIR ABELSON Beit Shemesh Food for thought? Sir, - Every time I see or hear the words "should" or "should not," I shudder. "I should tidy that closet." "I should fill out my tax return." "I should not eat that piece of chocolate." "Should" or should not" invariably indicate a lack of motivation which puts the necessary task at risk, followed by unlooked-for consequences. Shlomo Avineri's "Putting Lebanon together again" (July 19), with its several "shoulds" and its "should not," highlighted the lack of international group determination to end the regional scourge, with its connection to the global one. Prof. Avineri is right that an effective force with international legitimacy can supply the answer, but the reality is that the only effective, cohesive force with sufficient motivation is Israel, and the international (i.e. Western) community which "should" give permission does not have sufficient motivation to do what "should" be obvious. That's something to make one shudder - but, hopefully, also to start one thinking. MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem Just masterful Sir, - What a masterful analysis of the duplicitous use of "the Israel card" by mendacious Arab leaders in the past, and by Iran's Ahmedinejad, Syria's Assad and Hizbullah now, to deflect the predicted criticism and/or sanctions from a fed-up world, and even the Arab community ("Playing the Israel card," July 18). Amir Taheri accurately defined the depths to which Hamas and Hizbullah have sunk in order to portray Israel as guilty of the outbreak of violence when Syria's and Iran's prints on the conflict are indisputable. Let us hope that the reticence of most Arabs "to be dragged into a bigger war" will hold until Israel's justified goals - the safe return of the kidnapped soldiers and the total disintegration of Hizbullah - are realized. FAY DICKER Lakewood, New Jersey Where's his head? Sir, - I usually enjoy Gershon Baskin's articles in which he rightly has the opportunity to give the views of the Israeli Left an airing. However, "Perception and deception" (July 18) made me ask, "Where is his head?" He kept using the word "deterrence," for example, "How many people have to be killed to save the lives of a few, in the name of deterrence?" He needs to know that "deterrence" means preventing something from happening. Perhaps he's missed the news over the past two weeks - but that something has happened! What we are involved in now is a response to aggressive attacks on two of our internationally recognized borders. The time for deterrence is past. It's time to save our country. Mr. Baskin worries about our leaders' regard for the cheapness of our blood; I suggest he read the speeches in which the president of Iran talks about exterminating the State of Israel. He is using his pawns, Hamas and Hizbullah, to start carrying it out. LAURIE BLENDIS Jerusalem Haven with AMIT Sir, - "'We must not forget those who need help'" (July 19) was inspirational and on target. As a nonprofit organization, AMIT and our countrywide network of educational programs provide food, shelter and education to those in our society who most desperately need us, including new immigrants and the poverty-stricken. This past week we opened our arms to our "extended families" from Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, who have found a temporary haven at AMIT Kfar Batya and AMIT Kfar Blatt. When Kassam rockets began to fall in Sderot, AMIT Kfar Batya welcomed our students and their families from the AMIT Sderot schools for numerous "fun days" in hopes of relieving some of their stress. The tradition of AMIT and our heritage as a Jewish people are forever linked. We pray for the day when all Israel's children can live and learn in safety and security. ELLEN R. HELLMAN, Chair AMIT Israel Executive Committee Jerusalem With God's help Sir, - The prime minister's Knesset speech was an overwhelming success ("'Israel will not be held hostage,'" July 18). He gave just the right amount of encouragement and clearly stated our goals in this conflict. It was a pleasant surprise to see him done a kippa and end with a few verses from Jeremiah. It would have been even nicer if he had added two small words to his closing "We shall succeed" - b'ezrat Hashem (with the help of God). PINCHAS DAVIDMAN Jerusalem