March 29: Revisit right of return

The right of return, as presently understood, is totally inconsistent with the two-state solution.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Revisit right of return Sir, - I think if the UN is serious about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, some resolutions previously passed must be reviewed. Prime among them are ones relating to the right of return granted to some refugees. If the UN approves the two-state solution, it can only mean that there will be one state for the Israelis and another for the Palestinians. It will therefore not be feasible to ask Israelis to return to lands within the State of Palestine, or Palestinians to return to lands within the State of Israel. The right of return, as presently understood, is totally inconsistent with the two-state solution. If it is left as it is, there will never be an end to the conflict. Period. ("Seeking the elusive refugee formula," March 27.) KOLADE OBAFEMI Lagos, Nigeria No right of complaint Sir, - Historically, the only successful way hostilities between mixed populations have been resolved is via population exchanges: between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, between India and Pakistan in 1947 and, closer to home, Cyprus in 1974. A lot of suffering was caused - but far less than the alternatives in Lebanon, Kashmir and Sri Lanka. With Israel's establishment there was also a population exchange between local Arabs and Jews from Arab lands. This should be the refugee formula. After 59 years almost all the displaced inhabitants have died. Yet, somehow, their "right of return" has been inherited by succeeding generations. If so, we Jews, whose ancestors are the original refugees, are here exercising our far more ancient and deeper right of return! Whatever the local Arabs have chosen to call themselves, they are part of the Arab world, as we are continually reminded. Collectively Arabs have about three times the area of Europe - some of it floating on oil - with only half its population. Arabs have hardly been wronged as regards land allocation - so what's with their perennial bellyaching? ALFRED INSELBERG Ra'anana Smokescreen Sir, - Mark Heller's "The Iranian-Saudi summit was a microcosm of Mideast contradictions" (March 21) was an incisive and thought-provoking overview of the current situation in the Middle East, and I agreed with most of his observations, save one: the sincerity of the Saudi peace plan. The timing of its original launch (as the kingdom was coming under increased international pressure for its role in promoting Wahhabism); its terms (if Israel is willing to fall back to indefensible borders and allow itself to be overrun by Palestinian "refugees"), and the lack of any desire to negotiate terms, among a host of other factors, lead me to believe that this effort is a pure smokescreen. MICHAEL D. HIRSCH Kochav Yair Victims' triumph Sir, - Francesco Lotoro is to be commended on his efforts to preserve the works composed in the concentration camps ("Nearly forgotten music finds new life," March 27). However, readers of Ariel David's otherwise excellent article may erroneously conclude that Lotoro is the first to devote himself to this repertoire. Certainly no article on this subject is complete without mention of the pioneering work of Prof. David Bloch of Tel Aviv university, founder and director of the Terezin Music Memorial Project (TMMP), which recently celebrated 20 years of promoting, performing and recording works of the Terezin composers and other Holocaust victims. I firmly believe that preservation of their music represents the ultimate triumph of the victims over their persecutors. Therefore I consider it a great privilege to have participated in many concerts of the TMMP. ALLAN STERNFIELD Jerusalem True love it ain't Sir, - Avi Shafran's wounded tone and protestations of love for all Jews were a bit much coming from an official of Agudath Israel ("Fiendish fables about Orthodox Jews," March 27). At best, this "love" is like the love of a fundamentalist Christian who seeks to convert every Jew he meets to Christianity for the good of the Jew's soul. A person with such a point of view does not accept others for who they are and rejects their beliefs as misguided and dangerous, hardly a basis for the kind of mutual respect that is a precondition for love. If Shafran is really hurt by the hostility he encounters from Jews outside his very narrow sect of extreme Orthodoxy, and is not just scoring rhetorical points, he might stop blaming others and do some soul-searching. MARTIN GIDRON Falls Church, Virginia A vegetarian Seder Sir, - As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, I suggest we commemorate the redemption of our ancestors from slavery this Pessah by ending the current slavery to harmful eating habits through the adoption of vegetarian diets. More and more Jews are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers consistent with Jewish teachings. Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Seder - or at any other time. According to the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem Jews need not eat meat to celebrate Jewish festivals. At the Seder Jews declare: "Let all who are hungry come and eat." This seems inconsistent with animal-centered diets, which involve feeding 70% of the grain grown in the US to animals destined for slaughter while 20 million of the world's people die annually from hunger and its effects. Vegetarian diets, requiring far fewer resources, enable the better sharing of God's abundance and can help reduce global hunger and poverty. Pessah commemorates God's supremacy over the forces of nature. In contrast, man's modern intensive livestock agriculture and animal-centered diets have many negative effects on the environment, including climate change, pollution, soil erosion, etc. While relating the story of our freedom from slavery many Jewish vegetarians also consider the "slavery" of animals on modern "factory farms." Raising animals for food under very cruel conditions goes against the Jewish value of compassion. RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ New York To clarify Sir, - In "Peres biographer jumps into presidency race" (March 28) I was quoted as saying, "The Labor party should not disgrace itself with a candidate who is not even worthy of being president." I stressed indeed that Israel's president should be somebody of unique qualities and that [Collette] Avital doesn't have them (and neither have I), but I never said that her election would be a disgrace. I also didn't say that I was "fully qualified to hold the post," while beating my own drum about my achievements. MICHAEL BAR-ZOHAR Tel Aviv