March 8: Imbalance of trade

It should be pointed out that Gaza’s export of rockets to Israeli towns remains steady.

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Imbalance of trade Sir, – Regarding “Shipment of energy bars from Gaza breaks five-year export ban to West Bank” (March 6), it should be pointed out that Gaza’s export of rockets to Israeli towns remains steady (“Two Kassams fired from Gaza,” News in Brief, March 4).
Lost cause
Sir, – Nachman Shai (“The al- Dura case,” Comment & Features, March 6) is right in calling for a thorough investigation of Muhammad al-Dura’s death, but only because it would allow Israelis to conclude whether or not the IDF acted appropriately, and demonstrate the incompetence of Israel’s official response.
Make no mistake: Whatever the verdict, it will have no impact on al-Dura’s status as a martyr throughout the Arab world.
The government’s reaction was a public diplomacy nightmare.
After waiting a full five days to make an official statement, the head of the IDF Operations Directorate took responsibility on behalf of Israel for the child’s death and expressed regret. At that point, the game was over; there is simply no way Israel can ever convince the world of its innocence.
The government then exacerbated the problem by failing to support such courageous individuals as Philippe Karsenty and Richard Landes as they fought to restore Israel’s honor. The country’s official silence only confirmed its guilt. After all, if Israel had an answer to the charges leveled against it, why wouldn’t its spokespeople be shouting it from the rooftops? The train has already left the station. The Arab world will never be convinced that al-Dura was anything but the victim of Israeli brutality. The best we can hope for is that government officials who represent Israel to the world have learned the necessary lessons so that similar failures are not repeated in the future.
EFRAIM A. COHEN Zichron Ya’acov
Price for Pollard Sir, – Aaron Lerner (“The elephant in the room: Jonathan Pollard remains a hostage,” Comment & Features, March 6) succinctly documents the many times that compassionate dignitaries, including President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have literally pleaded with US President Barack Obama to release Pollard.
Lerner uses the term “blackmail” and writes, “America is continuing to hold Pollard until Israel pays some exorbitant, yet-to-be-stated ‘price.’” It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to know what that price is: Netanyahu will have to announce that Israel will return to the pre-1967 borders.
Then Lerner’s compassionate desire regarding that “space on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plane” would come to fruition.
LEONARD KAHN Zichron Ya’acov
Matter of membership Sir, – In 2005, Magen David Adom (MDA) and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) joined the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and not the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as you erroneously reported in “Samaria settlers urge ministers to return Star of David to MDA ambulances in West Bank” (March 6). The ICRC is a private, independent humanitarian organization.
MARCO SUCCI Jerusalem The writer is ICRC communication coordinator for Israel and the occupied territories
On language Sir, – Language skills are arguably more important today than they have ever been (“The current higher education language war,” Comment & Features, March 5).
Rapid globalization has increased the use of English in trade, academia, science, technology and politics. But in Israel, how would limiting the use of – and, therefore, the opportunity to master – English help young adults improve mother-language skills that should have been taught in primary school? There is a demonstrable need for more and better language skills. Surely, the way forward for any country wanting to play its full part in the world is to improve mother-tongue education while also increasing foreign- language study. English is an obvious choice for any country, not least Israel, with its thriving hi-tech sector.
There is no room for snobbery in education, but doesn’t every child deserve a chance to learn his or her way into a meritocratic elite?
Sir, – I generally enjoy the doom-and-gloom Global Agenda columns of Pinchas Landau in the Business & Finance section of your newspaper, and in fact have made minor business decisions based on his assessments. However, on March 2 (“The Japanese conundrum”) he mislead us.
He stated that “conundra” is plural for conundrum and then haughtily said that “people unschooled in Latin will prefer conundrums.”
The word conundrum in both the Webster-Merriam and the Oxford family of dictionaries has no known origin. Therefore, we cannot necessarily apply Latin rules of grammar.
Furthermore, if in doubt about the use of the English language it is always prudent to consult Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
Winston Churchill used it when writing to the director of Military Intelligence before the invasion of Normandy, correcting him on the use of “intensive” instead of “intense.”
I quote verbatim the entry for conundrum in Fowler’s: A 16c. word of unknown origin (not L. but possibly originating in some now-lost university joke). Pl. conundrums.
It seems that schooling in Latin might have had its day.
Land for burial Sir, – Finally, tiny Israel is grappling with the fact that one day it will run out of burial space (“National-religious organization and rabbis promote layered burial,” March 2). Even far-larger South Africa is now confronting a lack of space for cemeteries in its major cities.
Israel’s priority should be the living, not the dead, and certainly not at the expense of arable and productive land. For starters, it should ban the burial in Israel of Jews who have lived their whole life in the Diaspora.
Holiday rules Sir, – There are not enough “Do nots” around, so I thought I’d suggest a few more.
1. To taxi drivers: Do not activate the meter if you take on English-speaking passengers.
2. To supermarket check-out ladies: Do not smile unless it is to distract customers from your double billing.
3. To pedestrians: Do not stop talking on your cellphone when crossing the road diagonally (in order that your days may not be long).
4. To bus drivers: Do not worry about other road users. They will come off worse if they collide with you.
5. To doctors’ receptionists: Do not arrange for fewer than 15 patients to come for an appointment at the same time. (Oh yes, don’t forget to ask for a Kupat Holim card before greeting the patient.) 6. To employees of all municipal offices and utilities: Do not answer the phone when it rings lest you encourage the public to think you are there to be of service.
7. To senior bank management: Do not cut down on the paperwork with which you bamboozle your customers lest they be freed to concentrate on your excessive charges.
8. To newspaper editors: Do not put any good news on the front page lest you put your readers in a good frame of mind for the day.
9. To new olim. Do not try to speak Hebrew to the locals lest they think you are tourists.
10. To everybody: Most important of all, do not get caught! Have a happy Purim!