November 12: Regret, yes - but no apology

Israel is totally justified in defending itself against Palestinian rocket attacks. Sincere regret over an errant shell, yes; apology, no.

Regret, yes... Sir, - You report: "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apology for the accidental artillery attack in Gaza that killed 19 civilians early Wednesday morning did not stem the flood of international condemnation against Israel" ("UN to hold special session on Gaza deaths," November 9). Of course it didn't. As every child knows, you apologize when you are in the wrong. Israel is totally justified in defending itself against Palestinian rocket attacks. Apologizing - which Amir Peretz also did - only feeds the perception that Israel is permanently in the wrong, dating all the way back to when it "stole Palestinian land." Sincere regret over an errant shell, yes; apology, no. MIRIAM AMGAD Jerusalem ...but no apology Sir, - Why do Israeli spokespeople feel an inexplicable compulsion to rush to apologize? They are then faced with the impossible task of setting the record straight. The travesty of Israel being falsely charged with the death of Muhammad al-Dura, despite an independent French TV crew proving beyond doubt that Palestinian bullets were responsible, has never been rectified and Israel's guilt stands immutably inimical to its reputation. The Palestinians have honed their reputation for victimhood to perfection, but Israel must not enhance it in the eyes of the world ("19 civilians killed by artillery in Gaza," November 9). FAY DICKER Lakewood, New Jersey Sir, - After reading about the horrible mistake which killed 19 Palestinian civilians, I respectfully suggest that Israel declare a day of mourning. The world needs to understand just how deeply Israel regrets such an accident. GARY KATZ Long Grove, Illinois Who's playing fast and... Sir, - Neve Gordon's "Anti-Israeli? You just don't like what I say" (November 8) was a cut-and-paste of an earlier letter he wrote to the National Catholic Reporter. It was full of lies, as was his op-ed. Instead of answering why he seeks to stifle the free speech of Prof. Steven Plaut, Gordon turns around again - as he always does - and says I tried to stifle Norman Finkelstein's free speech. I didn't, and, as I explained in my original op-ed, I've released all the letters I wrote to the University of California Press. I even quoted myself from them: "I have no interest in censoring or suppressing Finkelstein's freedom of expression." Gordon again parrots Finkelstein's claim that I plagiarized The Case for Israel. The origins of the slander: Finkelstein first said I "almost certainly didn't write" The Case for Israel "and perhaps didn't even read it prior to publication." He even suggested all my books were written for me by the Israeli Mossad: "[I]t's sort of like a Hallmark line for Nazis... [T]hey churn them out so fast that he has now reached a point where he doesn't even read them." When I produced my handwritten manuscript as proof, Finkelstein changed his story, claiming that I had plagiarized the book. I immediately demanded that Harvard conduct an independent investigation, and they cleared me of all wrongdoing, as have numbers of distinguished scholars, a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The New York Times and the head legal librarian at the Harvard Law School. Yet Finkelstein and Gordon persist in making this charge - part of a long pattern of leveling personal attacks against those who support Israel or justice for Holocaust survivors, rather than engaging them on the merits of their views. ALAN DERSHOWITZ Cambridge, Massachusetts ...loose with free speech? Sir, - Watching Neve Gordon attack Prof. Alan Dershowitz's academic record reminded me of the fable about the flea calling the elephant "shorty." While challenging Dershowitz's record, Gordon (whose degree is from Notre Dame University) accuses the Harvard don of playing fast and loose with the facts, while Gordon denies Dershowitz's claim that he often compares Israel to Nazi Germany. So who is playing fast and loose here? Read, on: - Gordon comparing Israel's behavior to that of Nazi Germany on Kristallnacht, in a piece that appeared in Al-Ahram and a dozen other anti-Semitic journals; and - on - Gordon comparing Israeli behavior to Adolf Eichmann's. Gordon regularly compares Israel's defense fence to the walls built by Nazi Germany around concentration camps and ghettos. The media has already widely compared Gordon's malicious misuse of the courts to attempt to suppress the freedom of speech of his critics to the tactics adopted by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt. While whining about his "reputation," Gordon led a venomous and dishonest campaign of vilification against Israeli Gen. Aviv Kochavi for "war crimes," which resulted in attempts to prosecute Kochavi overseas under phony charges. Meanwhile Gordon continues to teach courses at Ben-Gurion University that consist of little more than anti-Israel political indoctrination, such as his notorious "Critical Aspects of the Occupation," in which no Zionist opinion dare be expressed. That says volumes about the academic standards of the political science department at BGU. PROF. STEVEN PLAUT University of Haifa Haifa In support of Amy Gutmann Sir, - I was abashed to read "University of Pennsylvania president poses with costumed suicide bomber" (November 5). It is more than obvious that Dr. Amy Gutmann doesn't support terrorism and that she, as a Jew, didn't grasp the full extent of her actions. Penn is one of the most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel universities in the world. In addition, you failed to report that Saad Saadi is not Muslim, but Christian. It is obvious he, as a 21-year-old, didn't understand the consequences and irresponsibility of his actions. OLIVIER ADLER University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Sir, - I have worked with Amy Gutmann at the University of Pennsylvania for over five years now. During this time we have become friends. Our families have celebrated many Passovers and Hanukkas together. I was astonished by some of the responses to the mishap at her Halloween party. Amy's commitment to democratic values and her pride in her Jewish heritage are as evident in her scholarly work as they are in her personal life. Anyone familiar with Amy and her core beliefs would flatly reject any suggestion that she would, under any circumstances, be tolerant of terrorists or what they stand for. SIGAL BEN-PORATH Philadelphia Healthily separate Sir, - David Klinghoffer mixes his levels in "Wayward religious reconcilers" (November 9). His talmudic quote about ritually bearing witness to the Sabbath in the synagogue and home liturgy is neither a scientific nor legal statement, but simply a religious-moral metaphor impressing on us the supreme value of observing the Sabbath. Similarly the attributing of compassion and justice, etc. to God are simply ways of impressing on us their supreme values in our lives, not God's. It is taking edificatory biblical and rabbinic statements literally that poses a danger to Judaism and, indeed, to human relations. Keep the levels of falsifiable science and unfalsifiable statements regarding what is morally desirable in our day-to-day behavior separate. In this way both Darwinism and post-Darwinism, on the one hand, and our Jewish national, religious and territorial way of life, on the other, can harmoniously go their separate ways. The Torah is there through its committed, intelligent and scholarly interpreters in every generation to teach us, scientists included, what we should or should not do. Science tries to tell us, on the basis of the scientists' findings, provisionally what is. ARYEH NEWMAN Jerusalem Sir, - We were very pleased to see Naomi Farrell's article on Raoul Wallenberg's relationship to Jan Eliasson ("The UN chief who cites Wallenberg as his role model," November 2). She rightly emphasized the value of Wallenberg's legacy, which encourages not only diplomats but all people to embrace peace and dialogue. Eliasson's accomplishments as president of the UN General Assembly, including his creation of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, are a testament to the ongoing power of Wallenberg's model. In risking his own safety to rescue 100,000 Jews he hewed a path that Eliasson should be commended on striving to follow. Promoting Holocaust education, facing down anti-Israel rhetoric and lecturing to share Wallenberg's story are all important ways to preserve and extend the lifesaving ethics of civic courage and solidarity. As Eliasson receives the Dag Hammarskjold Inspiration Award, it is heartening to know that, through articles like Farrell's, Wallenberg's inspiration continues to reach greater audiences. MELANIE CAPICCIONI Int'l Raoul Wallenberg Foundation New York Soros and Kimche Sir, - Re "Soros a Zionist? That would be great" by David Kimche (November 2): I must note his lack of understanding of AIPAC's role as a centrist - not "right-wing," as he maintains - force on behalf of Israel within the Jewish American community. When will the real threats faced by Israel and the US be acknowledged by Kimche and his "progressive" American counterparts? MORRIS J. AMITAY Former Director of AIPAC Washington Veiled allusion Sir, - "Straw doesn't regret remarks on women's veils" (November 2) quoted PM Tony Blair saying the full-face veil known as the niqab is "a mark of separation." Interestingly, the word comes from the same root as the Arabic verb naqaba, meaning "he bored a hole," and is cognate with the Hebrew word nekev, a hole. The defining feature of this form of dress, then, would seem to be the aperture through which the wearer peers out - unlike "veil," which is chiefly associated with what it hides. MARTIN D. STERN Salford, UK