June 24: Our very own best friend

The French president's address to the Knesset, though friendly and pleasant to hear, somewhat missed the point.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Our own best friend Sir - The French president's address to the Knesset, though friendly and pleasant to hear, somewhat missed the point, I felt. He said that Israel, being the strong and powerful party, should be the one to move the peace process forward. He assured us that France would support us and defend us against all risks. One ought to remember that the Czechs had a signed treaty in the late 1930s and were betrayed by France. The lesson is that each country must be its own guarantor, while endeavouring to create as many friends as possible ("Sarkozy to the Knesset: Nuclear Iran is 'totally unacceptable,'" On-Line Edition, June 23). NATHAN MAYER Milan Sir, - It was good to read about President Sarkozy's visit to Israel in support of that otherwise beleaguered nation. He and his lovely wife seem to radiate a genuine concern for its problems. HERB STARK Massapequa, New York Sir, - I listened carefully to M. Sarkozy's address to the Knesset. After the platitudes were removed, what was left was the same old "Israel must be prepared to take dangerous risks for peace." Vis-a-vis who? Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO? Abbas is a corrupt politician and, anyway, the Palestinians much prefer Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh. And a PLO-Hamas agreement would certainly bring about the (possibly violent) end of Abbas. So putting aside a European or Russian or American-enforced "shotgun marriage" of a peace pact - which would be short-lived - who is there for Israel to enter into "dangerous, risk-taking" discussions with? DAVID LEE London Pride, yes. Parade, no Sir, - It is true that all Jerusalemites wish to have "pride in the capital," but I beg to differ with the conclusions of your editorial ("Pride in the capital," June 23). Yes, today's modern Jerusalem is a "vibrant, cosmopolitan, international capital." And, yes, Jews, Christian and Muslims throughout the world have since time immemorial recognized it as a holy city; many people visit and have made pilgrimages here for just that reason. But the "Pride" parade is not a celebration of life; more like a formula for its demise. Most thinking people realize that wholesale pursuit of the gay lifestyle can only lead to the destruction of the society that promotes it, no future generations being possible. Finally, members of Israel's LGBT community can behave as they wish; there are no laws here to forbid them. So they are not marching for their rights. In a city as holy as Jerusalem and given "an issue as delicate as sexuality," why exactly are they parading? GERTI KORNFELD Jerusalem Donors & leaders Sir, - Ralph I. Goldman, quoted in "Wisdom in charity" (Editorial, June 22), is correct in stating that organizations and institutions are not immortal. To survive they must continually resonate with the needs of the community. As with synagogues in shrinking Jewish Diaspora communities, only those organizations perceived as providing essential services to an authentic and supportive constituency will survive the inevitable closings and mergers. In many cases, both service-users and -funders foot the bill for the operations and programs of community institutions. In today's stretched economy, too few participants may signal donors that it has become necessary to pull the switch on one institution in order to allow others to survive. While we agree with your premise, we ask: Does the act of contributing money alone qualify a donor to play a leadership role in setting community priorities? No, we contend. You referred to the additional traits that characterize a philanthropic leader. These include vision, knowledge, experience, commitment and involvement; and reliance on the hands-on experience of professionals, there to ensure donor intent and accountability and assess a program's effectiveness. Thus it is not merely a "donor" who foots the bill, but a true "philanthropic leader" who reserves "the prerogative of telling an organization: Your time has passed." ARDIE GELDMAN & DAVID ROTH Donor Associates in Israel, Ltd Jerusalem Rescue, expurgated Sir, - That the State of Israel and Yad Vashem have for decades presented the public with an expurgated version of the Rescue & Obstruction aspects of the Holocaust has been reconfirmed by Yad Vashem's refusal to include among its exhibits the rescue efforts of the US-based Bergson Group. This appears to be part of a Yad Vashem policy of excising from Holocaust history not only Hillel Kook, aka Peter Bergson, but also such other "Jewish Wallenbergs" as George Mantello, Recha Sternbuch and Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld, who were collectively responsible for the rescue of hundreds of thousands of European Jews. One leading Jewish rescue group was finally included in the exhibit: the Bratislava Working Group led by Rabbi Weissmandl and Gisi Fleischmann. A large display was skillfully worded to minimize their important achievements and shift failure of the 1942 "Europa Plan" from the free-world Jewish-Zionist leadership to the Germans. The Bergson Group's persistent, inspired efforts to awaken US Jewry to the murder of European Jews in face of massive opposition by large part of the American Jewish-Zionist establishment resulted in the creation by president Franklin Roosevelt of the War Refugee Board, which was instrumental in saving over 200,000 Jews, in part via the Wallenberg mission. A new chairman of Yad Vashem's board will soon be chosen - an opportunity to appoint someone with the integrity to reorientate Yad Vashem into an institution in which Holocaust history is truthfully represented, without political or other extraneous influences ("Petition urges Yad Vashem to add Bergson Group. Over 100 Israeli leaders call on museum to include maverick activist organization in future exhibits," June 20). LARRY PFEFFER Jerusalem Working Group Jerusalem Sir, - While the world slept, the death trains rumbled along the tracks to their ghastly destination. As a media assistant at its Washington headquarters, I was a witness to the Bergson Group's campaign to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz, and to its other critical work. As our tradition dictates, to save a single life is to save the world. If this group's work was that of a "maverick," then I am proud to be a maverick, and the State of Israel is a proud maverick state. The group's anti-Shoah leadership and its primary influence in enacting into law the US War Refugee Board, resulting in rescue missions, has been fully authenticated in Prof. David Wyman's monumental The Abandonment of the Jews. Hillel Kook's legacy - silence in face of genocide is not an option - is as true given today's Iran as it was during the Shoah. CHARLES STEIN Great Neck, New York Insult's no injury Sir, - Reading "Iran shuts paper critical of president" (June 23) and that "the paper's editor was summoned to court for publishing material deemed as insulting to Ahmadinejad," I reflected that this type of thing occurs everywhere in the Mideast. Only in Israel do newspapers publish without fear. In this country it is inconceivable that a journalist could write anything, no matter how derogatory, that might be considered as having insulted members of the government. DAVID STAR Ma'aleh Adumim