March 28: Pernicious parallel

The UN has reached a new low with [Falk's] appointment. But more than that, his parallel shames me in the name of the Six Million who perished.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Pernicious parallel Sir, - Having recently been in Poland with my grandchildren to see firsthand the reality of the unspeakable horror that occurred there, standing on the ground where babies were torn from their mothers to be thrown into ovens, I read with incredulity about the appointment of a fellow American Jew, Richard A. Falk ("US Jew who likens Israel to Nazis named human rights head," March 27). Falk has defended suicide bombings as a valid method of struggle, charges Israel with genocide and state terrorism and does not "think it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity." The UN has reached a new low with this appointment. But more than that, his parallel shames me in the name of the Six Million who perished, and in the name of those witnesses who survived and must read these words. NAOMI FEINSTEIN Givat Ada Understand this Sir, - I would have expected the terrorist attack on Mercaz Harav Yeshiva by an Islamic fundamentalist, in which eight of our best and brightest were murdered, to arouse a more noble response from Naomi Chazan than the usual well, you know, we should do more for Jerusalem's Palestinian Arabs - as if that would solve the problem. After all, the Muslim who perpetrated the crime came from a good socioeconomic background. But he understood something Ms. Chazan apparently does not. Jerusalem is not a regular piece of real estate that can be cut this way or that. It is a unique city which derives its unique existence from its centrality in both Jewish and Muslim sacred texts. At its heart lies the Temple Mount, which cannot be replicated. The history of the city demonstrates that it has always been fought over. While no one knows when the wheel of history will again turn and we shall lose our control over the city, what we do know is that there will always be fanatics who will try to quicken the pace of history in Islam's favor. Terrorism is their instrument for change, and they will not be bought off with the kind of half-measures and palliatives offered in "Oh, Jerusalem" (UpFront, March 21). LILY POLLIACK Jerusalem Why so insensitive? Sir, - Your interview with economist Joseph Stiglitz ("Balanced accounts," UpFront, March 21) was interesting until it went awry as it approached its conclusion: the appointment and tenure of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank. Coming from someone as logical as Mr. Stiglitz, I was taken aback. What does the US administration's position on the war in Iraq and any blunders it may have committed therein have to do with Wolfowitz's ability and qualifications to run the World Bank? To depict his departure as "resigning in disgrace" is an outright canard. As Bret Stephens and his fellow members of The Wall Street Journal editorial board showed quite conclusively in a series of op-ed pieces in the Journal at the time, Wolfowitz was literally run out of town by a group of embedded bureaucrats who felt threatened by the changes he was attempting to make at the Bank. Stiglitz, of all people, who faced the same situation at an equally dysfunctional organization, the International Monetary Fund, should be sensitive to the situation Wolfowitz faced. "Having seen the underhanded ways they operate in developing countries," he said, "I should have expected that kind of behavior, but I wasn't prepared for the extent of it." Spot-on, Mr. Stiglitz. So why the lack of sensitivity? MICHAEL D. HIRSCH Kochav Yair Civil disobedience Sir, - In "The heroes we choose" (March 21) Sarah Honig wrote: "Civil disobedience, the last we heard, is no crime in a credible democracy." Civil disobedience is a crime by definition. It means expressing one's disagreement with a law and protesting against it by disobeying it. The claim that "we lionize as heroes those who followed in trailblaizer Henry David Throeau's footsteps" also does not accurately describe those who practice civil disobedience. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others were influenced by Thoreau's writing, but none followed in his footsteps. Thoreau refused to pay his taxes not because of an actual grievance or desire to change some unfair policy or unjust law but because he was opposed to government, democratic or otherwise. Like other members of New England's "non-resistance" movement, he was opposed to paying taxes as an expression of his refusal to support or cooperate with a government that maintained an army, police force and prison service. Only when Thoreau became disenchanted with the anarchistic pacifism that led to his single night in jail did he develop the ideas expressed in the essay that would influence others to walk in footsteps he never trod. AVINOAM SHARON, Advocate Nili Sir, - If civil disobedience didn't take the form of a crime, it wouldn't be civil disobedience. In order to generate the drama that attracts attention to their cause, civil disobeyers commit punishable offenses; and in order to demonstrate their commitment, they brave the consequences. That's the difference between an act of civil disobedience and a licensed political demonstration. If I'm wrong, and civil disobedience is no crime in a credible democracy, let me know. I'm not too happy with some of the bus driving I've seen lately; maybe I'll stop paying my fare and claim that as a protester, I'm exempt from punishment. MARK L. LEVINSON Herzliya