March 23: Let's free all...

The exodus of these bloodstained Palestinian prisoners from our jails could signal a new era of peace.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Let's free all... Sir, - What I propose will not be very popular with the vast majority of the public, and it obviously would involve a considerable risk for Israel. On the other hand, there is a good chance it could open up a whole new avenue for peace with the Palestinians, with favorable repercussions throughout the Middle East and on world opinion. My suggestion: Free all the Palestinian prisoners in our jails, simultaneously, as an unparalleled, enlightened gesture of a truly magnanimous people and in the spirit of Pessah, our festival of freedom. The impact of such a gesture, coming out of the blue, perhaps even from the soon to be formed government, would be greeted with incredulous joy by the Palestinians; bring about the immediate release of Gilad Schalit; open up new avenues for peace talks and a final settlement with the Palestinians; stop Palestinian terror; immeasurably raise Israel's stock throughout the world and turn this country from being the whipping boy of the world media into its darling. Of course, such a step can only come from a farsighted and visionary leadership. Carefully prepared, it could generate unprecedented amounts of goodwill, first and foremost from the Palestinian prisoners and their families, whose opinion of Israel and their captors would be radically altered and radiate throughout the Palestinian and Arab world. The exodus of these bloodstained Palestinian prisoners from our jails could signal a new era of peace, understanding and cooperation for our blood-drenched, tear-stained, hope-parched land. It's a gamble, I know, but one which could, overnight, change the face of the Middle East for the better. As we prepare to celebrate Pessah, let us reflect that freedom - whether it be for Israeli or Palestinian, for Jew or Muslim, or for any human being, is the greatest, most precious prize of all ("Held hostage," Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, March 20). DAVID HERMAN Jerusalem ...those friendly, likable terrorists Sir, - Last year I participated in an international course on the psychological aspects of terrorism. We were granted special permission to tour one of the maximum-security prisons in Israel and given the opportunity to interview a Palestinian terrorist. "Our" terrorist spoke perfect English. He had attained his B.A. in Jordan, and a degree in engineering from an American university. What I found most outstanding was his pleasant demeanor. He was a good looking, clean-cut man in his early forties. He made good eye contact and appeared quite friendly and likable. Had I sat next to him in a cafe, I wouldn't have given him a second glance. While I couldn't help but notice the perspiration on his forehead, despite the cold room, he was articulate and his answers were smooth and spoken like a true psychopath. He knew exactly what he wanted to convey, and did so effortlessly. I ended my interview with one question. Did he have any regrets about anything at all? His answer was a quick "No." After the interview, we found out that this amiable, articulate fellow was the leader of Hamas in Tulkarm, Abbas a-Sayid, and the mastermind behind the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya on Pessah 2002. While in Israeli custody awaiting trial, he planned the 2005 terrorist attack in a nearby shopping mall which killed five and injured 86, and claimed responsibility for yet another bombing, which killed two. He is currently serving 35 life sentences, but is among those whose release Hamas demands in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Having met him, I have no doubt that this man, given the opportunity, would repeat what he did in a minute. And lest you feel sorry for this poor "militant" suffering in jail, I should point out that he shares an air-conditioned room with two others, with a bathroom, television and DVD, has outside sports time twice a day and prayer time, and is allowed visitors on a biweekly basis. He is currently, while in prison, pursuing a degree in international relations from the Open University. It doesn't get much better than that now, does it? Isn't it time we rethought our handling of the terrorists we hold? DR. BATYA L. LUDMAN, PSY.D., FT Licensed Clinical Psychologist Ra'anana Sir, - Israel's present policy encourages the kidnapping of its citizens, to be used as pawns for the release of murderous terrorists. Israel needs a death penalty for acts of murder committed by Arab terrorists. The release of such murderers must stop. Far too many have gone on to commit additional crimes. A dead terrorist cannot commit any more murders. LEON ABRAMOWITZ Jerusalem Why let Shoah denial measure Jew-hatred? Sir, - In "Sweden's anti-Israel apartheid policy is about more than sport" (Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, March 9), which concluded with statistics on how much of Swedish youth denies the Holocaust, we were again treated to the assumption that Holocaust denial is the test of Jew-hatred. How long are we going to use this litmus test for where we stand with people and nations? What other nation bases the legitimacy of its existence upon past suffering? What other group places its need for a state above the fact that it has a state? Isn't it time we based ourselves on our victories instead of on our suffering? Our legitimacy was established by the United Nations granting us a birth certificate on Nov. 14, 1947, even before we were born. And we were born not because our mothers were suffering labor pains and our fathers were martyrs, but because we defeated seven Arab peoples who wanted to throw us into the sea as abortions of history. We are a member of the UN, and another member has no right to demand our disappearance. We are legitimate because we are a nation occupying our space on earth, and because we can defend that space. SAMUEL SAMUELSON Jerusalem Two views of the Poles Sir, - A very peculiar people, those Poles ("Polish film shows glimpse of Jewish life before WWII," March 22). First, for the most part, they collaborate with the Nazi murderers, who were their own tormentors, to exterminate millions of Polish Jews; then, a generation later, they're looking for traces of these "exotic" neighbors! Very strange indeed. HAIM M. LERNER Ganei Tikva Sir, - I have 1,000 reasons to love Poland and 3.5 million reasons to respect the Polish people. Knowing that Poland also had its share of anti-Semitic incidents, mostly during foreign occupation under which all citizens suffered, it is worth remembering that it became the birthplace of some of the finest leaders and the founders of the modern State of Israel. Today, Poland wants to be our staunchest friend in Europe. And we, too, want to confirm that Jews never forget good friendship, and certainly do not forget deeds of self-sacrificially saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust. While many nations turn against Israel today, the Polish people support the vibrant development of Jewish life in their country. Likewise, their government promotes Poland-Israel relations, notably by having declared 2008/2009 Poland-Israel year - Poland's 90th anniversary (of regaining independence) and Israel's 60th. Poland's Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska has proven her country's good intentions by many actions, including dozens of Polishcultural events in Israel fostering personal friendship between the two nations. Remarkably, too, last year Premier Donald Tusk as well as President Lech Kaczynski, in addition to two former presidents Lech Walensa and Aleksander Kwasniewski, visited Israel. Which other country has sent four top statesmen to us in the space of a year? HILLEL GOLDBERG Jerusalem Rank and guile Sir, - I agreed in general with Asher Meir's analysis of Admiral Eliezer Marom's behavior ("Wholesale and retail exploitation," Ethics@work, March 13), but am disturbed nevertheless by the implications of his reportedly lying to the chief of staff in claiming that his visit to a strip-club was a "one-off" occurrence. I also fear that his authority over subordinates - especially female ones - has suffered. Incidentally, as an former naval officer, I can state with certainty that neither of the two senior woman ex-officers interviewed for the column were ever in the navy. They both served in their time as OC Women's Corps, with the rank of Brig.-Gen. One more rather bizarre point concerning Adm. Marom (and, I believe, some of his predecessors): His proper rank is aluf, equivalent to Maj.-Gen. or, in the navy, rear-admiral (two-star rank). Yet in the accompanying photo he is seen wearing the stripes of a vice admiral (three-star rank). I understand this is also the rank he uses in English. By doing so he places himself on a par with the chief of staff - i.e., Lt.-Gen. (Rav-Aluf) - which is a three-star rank, outranking all the other alufim in the IDF! This situation probably causes misunderstanding and confuses military and protocol officials abroad. REUVEN PORATH Haifa The IDF Spokesman responds: Since the 1990s, with the consent of the then chief of staff, Israel's naval heads have been presented to their counterparts abroad with the rank of vice-admiral, an interim rank whose significance varies in foreign armies. The current chief of staff has decided to leave the situation as it is for the time being. Sir, - Goodness me, a sailor went to a strip club - scandalous! Imagine the English sacking Lord Nelson because of his affair with the married Lady Hamilton, or the Americans dumping Ike because of his liaison with his driver, Kay Summersby. Adm. Marom's job is to give us the best navy our budget can afford, and to defend our sea frontier with all the skills and vigor he can command. He is a war leader, not a teacher of propriety. He should not be judged by any other standard. JOSEF GILBOA Jaffa