March 4: Regression

If we had a more representative Knesset, accountable to the public, we would likely face the future with more confidence.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Regression... Sir, - Again, the public be damned! Once more electoral reform is sacrificed on the altar of coalition politics. Again we regress while we repress the democratic representation the country yearns for ("Electoral reforms sacrificed on coalition altar" March 3). If we had a more representative Knesset, accountable to the public, as the Citizens Empowerment Public Action Campaign (CEPAC) proposes, we would likely face the future with more confidence. Aren't our leaders embarrassed as they trade off ministries regardless of the incumbents' suitability? With Israel's tremendous potential of leadership and expertise, cabinet selection should not be limited to the party faithful, with these vital positions used as bargaining chips. The people deserve better. ELAINE LEVITT CEPAC Migdal Tefen ...and repression Sir, - Electoral reform, probably the most important public issue apart from national security, is the first casualty of Tzipi Livni's refusal to help form a unity government. Livni believes she would betray her voters by joining with Binyamin Netanyahu; I believe she is betraying her country by refusing to compromise. She would have much greater influence within the cabinet than outside in the opposition, waiting for the government to fall. Livni, please rethink. MICHAEL CLAFF Tel Aviv Sir, - Many people feel disillusioned and disenfranchised by the sham of placing a ballot in an envelope, knowing their vote counts for nothing. If Israel is to remain a democratic state, the public must have a say in how it is governed otherwise it will dissolve into another third-world country. Special interests never cared about the country, only about their need to keep their Knesset seats warm. A. WEINBERG Rehovot It takes a gutsy poet Sir - Yvonne Green's eyewitness account ("Puzzled in Gaza," March 3) exposes the global obsession with degrading Israel at every opportunity and the international community's willingness to accept any allegation without full substantiation. Sensational, inaccurate headlines grab attention and are repeated ad nauseam. It has taken a poet, one with guts, to walk into Gaza, see for herself the truth of the situation and expose the reality she observed. Will the UN and others investigate and retract their hate-mongering misrepresentations in as loud and public a way as they originally espoused them? Where are the alleged 5,500 wounded Gazans? How can they explain that the UNWRA school is still standing? DEBRA KALMS Herzliya Shopping unwisely Sir, - It took years of Hamas rocketing of Israel, which in turn caused Israel to retaliate, destroying parts of Gaza, to get the world to donate funds to then reconstruct Gaza ("Some $2.8 billion expected to be pledged toward Gaza reconstruction at Sharm e-Sheikh conference," March 2). The world could have spent a tenth of that to get Hamas to stop firing the missiles - $280m. can be pretty convincing. The remainder would have gone a long way toward upgrading infrastructure, creating jobs, and building schools, hospitals and homes. Who knows - it might even have brought around the long-sought cease-fire. I guess that wasn't on anyone's shopping list. SETH CLYMAN Jerusalem Who's indigenous? Sir, - According to Yousuf Jabareen, Israeli Arabs are now entitled to protection as an "indigenous people" under the UN International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which he declares to be "international law" ("A moral failure," March 2). This is the latest instance of distortion of international law and falsification of history in order to delegitimize Israel. This declaration is not international law, simply a non-binding General Assembly resolution. It was opposed by the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia; 11 additional democracies abstained. Its ostensible purpose was to protect genuinely indigenous peoples such as the Inuit in Canada and the Aborigines in Australia. To argue that Israeli Arabs are an indigenous people within the meaning of the declaration is to turn history on its head. Prof. Irwin Cotler has argued that it is the Jewish people that is the indigenous people here, "a kind of prototypical Aboriginal people," paraphrasing Abba Eban: "The Jewish people are amongst the only peoples who still worship the same God, inhabit the same land, and speak the same language as we did 4,000 years ago." It has become all too easy for our critics to paint Israel as a serial violator of "human rights" and "international law" by taking these terms hostage and applying them in an incorrect and discriminatory manner against Israel - as Mr. Jabareen does. For international law and diplomacy to have any future meaning, the integrity of the basic vocabulary must be safeguarded. Otherwise we shall descend to the meaningless discourse of Animal Farm. JAN SOKOLOVSKY Jerusalem Sir, - Yousef Jabareen bewails the persecution he fears as coming from Avigdor Lieberman and his recent electoral success, comparing the right-wing ascendency in Israel to the rise of Austria's Joerg Haider. I ask: Where were the two previous generations of Israeli Arabs? They were celebrating a day of nakba - catastrophe - on Yom Ha'atzmaut. What would American gentiles say if American Jews celebrated a day of catastrophe on July 4? Or Egyptian Arabs, if Egyptian Jews observed a day of catastrophe instead of celebrating Egyptian independence? Since Israeli Arabs call themselves Palestinians, what is so terrible if Lieberman and those who voted for him think Palestinian-Israelis should live in Palestine, and not in Israel? It would be fascist if the demand was to expel the Arabs from Galilee. But if Galilee is exchanged for West Bank areas where Israeli Jews live, is this not fair? I refer Mr. Jabareen to the piece by Hashem Saleh in the same issue, calling for conciliation between Arabs and Jews ("Article in Arab daily calls for conciliation," Elsewhere). MENDEL MENDELSSOHN Jerusalem Hadassah-Israel's finest Sir, - Re Ruth Eglash's interview with Hadassah's national president ("'Out of every crisis rises an opportunity,'" March 3): Nancy Falchuk mentioned that the membership is "based mostly in N. America, with a few chapters scattered through Europe and South America." How ironic that on a visit here, she should ignore the many very active English- and Hebrew-speaking chapters established all over Israel under the auspices of Hadassah-Israel, and the wonderful work the Israeli members do not just in fund-raising, but in assisting practical projects. Unfortunately our American sisters have a tendency to marginalize the not-so-wealthy - but just as keen - Israeli members. However, if Ms. Falchuk wants, as she says, to get back to the core mission of Hadassah, she will find no finer existing examples than the members of Hadassah-Israel. For anyone interested in volunteering, Hadassah-Israel's office is at 24 Rehov Strauss, Jerusalem, tel. 02-623-1411. YEHUDIT COLLINS Jerusalem