May 18: Numbers tell the story

Remarkably, the participation of thousands of Jewish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War does not receive even one line in the Encyclopedia Judaica.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Numbers tell the story Sir, - We are indebted to Ervin Birnbaum for shining a spotlight on a missing chapter in Jewish history books ("A prologue to WWII," May 15). Remarkably, the participation of thousands of Jewish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War does not receive even one line in the Encyclopedia Judaica. The disproportionate numbers of Jews, especially in the Polish contingent of 5,000 - 45 percent - gives the lie to the contention that the Jews of that time "didn't fight back." HAYYIM HALPERN Jerusalem Glorious gals Sir, - After taking in the headline on Calev Ben-David's May 14 analysis - "Is Tzipi Livini man enough to be prime minister?" - I wondered where he has been all these years. What Ben-Gurion thought about Golda ("the only man in my cabinet," as your writer phrased it) may seem like past history, but it was praise; unlike Ben-David's put-down. "And here in a nutshell," states your writer, "is why Livni's gender is going to matter at some point." It turns out that not only isn't she a man, she ain't a general. Yet there is no reason in the world why an experienced politician should not get the top job on that account. What we will be looking for is someone who can weld all the elements of our society together to meet any challenge. Churchill didn't get past battalion commander. Roosevelt didn't serve in the forces (he was assistant secretary of the navy). Truman was an artillery officer. Stalin studied to be a priest, and Mao Tse Tung wasn't a general. Yet all played their part in historic strategic decisions. Then there is Maggie Thatcher, who told the generals and the admirals what to do to recapture the Falklands. We should look to our own heritage. There are plenty of heroic woman in our history, and there will be more. The big political and strategic decisions demand as much bravery as sending soldiers into battle, because they can involve sending the whole nation into battle. The Koran contains the name of only one woman, Mary, mother of Jesus - and she was Jewish. So go for it, Tzipi. We are watching closely, with open minds. DAVID SHAW Jerusalem Why peace eludes us Sir, - In omitting the ideological basis for Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state, A.B. Yehoshua's sensitive and interesting "The Jews' journey back to history" (May 14) did not go the last crucial mile. The desire to obliterate Israel derives from two basic Islamic tenets well-known to scholars of Islam yet ignored by policy-makers. The first maintains that the world is divided into dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and dar al-harb (all territories outside Islam, regarded as the "world of war"). It is the religious obligation of all Muslims to work toward establishing worldwide Islamic hegemony and reclaiming all territories that were once under Islamist rule, viewed as belonging to Islam eternally. The second tenet is the hegemony of Muslims over all occupants of their lands, who may be accepted, culturally and legally, only as dhimmis, or second-class citizens. With the rise of politicized militant Islam these issues have become preponderant. Welded to the initially more nationalistic goals, they make it impossible for Palestinians - and the Arab world as a whole - to accept a Jewish state where in a previous period the Arabs dominated. Hence their urge to extirpate Israel from this area. As long as this mind-set persists there can be no compromise on borders, which, except when they provide tactical or strategic advantages, are irrelevant to Palestinians. This is why no successful outcome can be expected from the present peace initiatives. DAPHNE BURDMAN Jerusalem Israel - South Africa: The right comparison Sir, - Nadine Gordimer's comparison of Israel with South Africa was seriously flawed ("Gordimer to 'Post': Israel must talk to its enemies," May 14). As an ex-South African who lived through the transition, I can agree that the peaceful settlement between white and black came about because, firstly, the white side was represented by a verligte or enlightened leadership, which overcame the so-called verkrampte white supremacist followers of Mr. Verwoerd; and, secondly, the black side was led by the ANC, which spurned violence and sought and agreed to a non-violent resolution. There were extremists on both sides. The pan-Africanist Azanians sought the total exclusion of whites. They themselves were excluded from any negotiations, the ANC did not expound their views, and the whites did not talk to them. Here in Israel, Hamas is the equivalent of those black parties that sought the destruction and exclusion of the whites in South Africa; and, like the pan-Africanist Azanians, it must be excluded from all talks and vigorously opposed. This is the correct comparison between Israel and South Africa. Nadine Gordimer is to be congratulated for not listening to the jihadists-Hamas supporters back home who urged her not to visit Israel. JUD FRAME Ra'anana Dignity and courage Sir, - Many thanks for publishing "Daniel Pearl's last words" (May 15), the excellent response by the parents of the late Daniel Pearl to the unjustifiably critical article by Larry Derfner ("Daniel Pearl's last words, uncensored," May 7). This dignified and humble rejoinder reiterated in the minds of most Jews the courage shown by their son. I doubt if there is anybody who would have behaved any differently, faced with execution and a promise of release if he or she read out pre-written criticisms of the country they loved. ROBYN ROTBERG Kfar Saba