November 2: ‘Soft’ int’l law

Sunday’s 'Jerusalem Post' reported two examples of the dangerous phenomenon of “soft” international law.

‘Soft’ int’l law
Sir, – Sunday’s Jerusalem Post reported two examples of the dangerous phenomenon of “soft” international law – the ease with which principles of international law are deliberately misstated, so that Israel can be accused of violating them, and so that our history can be denied.
First, with regard to the Palestinian refugees, Saeb Erekat is quoted as saying “the right of return was legitimate in accordance with international law and UN resolutions, first and foremost [General Assembly] Resolution 194” (“PA upset over UNRWA official’s remark on refugees not returning,” October 31).
He is wrong on two points: General Assembly resolutions are merely recommendations, and are not binding under international law; and Resolution 194 does not refer to Palestinian refugees, nor does it grant them a “right of return.” On the contrary, that claim is a complete distortion of the resolution’s language.
Second, the outrageous UNESCO decision that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are an integral part of the “occupied” Palestinian territories threatens that “any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law, the UNESCO Conventions and the United Nations and Security Council resolutions” (“UNESCO decision to call Patriarchs’ Tomb Palestinian is ‘absurd,’ says PM,” October 31).
This decision is wrong, factually and legally. UNESCO decisions are not binding in international law, and this one defies all historical truth.
Words in the PM’s mouth
Sir, – Thanks to David Horovitz for his incisive interview with Ambassador Gould (“A most intriguing ambassador,” Editor’s notes, October 15). But it is disturbing that Prime Minister Netanyahu may believe what Horovitz has him say, that “we resent the notion that these areas” – which Horovitz also has Netanyahu call Judea and Samaria – “are consigned to the definition of ‘occupied,’ over which we have no rights, when we feel so strongly that we have a peerless claim.”
I hope he realizes that by putting these words in Netanyahu’s mouth – and even more if the prime minister actually believes them – it will only make it much harder for Israel to give up the occupied areas she is going to need to give up for her sustainable Jewish identity and security and peace.
There seems to remain, though, one hope. It is that Netanyahu may be the one (but only one) leader who remains, in the era after Ariel Sharon, who can show so deeply that he understands our heritage and our security needs, and hence can inculcate such confidence in his judgments that he may be able to unite the country to be able to act in her own best interests.
JAMES ADLER Cambridge, Massachusetts
Green dollars
Sir, – University students who burned tires (“Power to the people,” photo, November 1) showed themselves to be lacking any regard for the environment and to be motivated solely by greed.
The anti-kollel kollel
Sir, – To counter the widespread unawareness that our religious texts disapprove of long-term, full-time religious study without working, the government should provide substantial financial incentives to encourage the study of these religious texts (“Debate over kollel-student stipend goes to ‘the sources,’” November 1).
JFK from right to left
Sir, – Thank you for David Geffen’s op-ed on the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s election (“In appreciative memory of JFK,” October 28).
How appropriate to begin the op-ed by quoting his famous words to Americans in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
The main and sad problem is that Israelis read from right to left, and so it comes out: “Ask not what you can do for your country – ask what the country can do for you.”
Black cloud
Sir, – The ongoing saga of the disgraceful imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard casts a black cloud over the vaunted American justice system (“Pollard’s life sentence doesn’t fit the crime,” November 1).
The part that Israel played in Pollard’s imprisonment is also an indictment of the behavior of our government at the time and of those officials – elected and otherwise – who played into secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger’s hands.
How can our own ally behave so viciously toward a prisoner whom it holds in a sentence that is out of proportion to the offense? CYRIL ATKINS Beit Shemesh The South African example Sir, – It is shocking and frightening to know that there is still no border fence on our southern border (“Whatever happened to the Sinai border fence?,” Editorial, October 31).
As a white South African who fought against apartheid in my student days, I know the folly of not having any control on the border.
Since the end of apartheid millions of black people from the surrounding countries have infiltrated South Africa, to the extreme aggravation of its black population, who blame them for the government’s inability to deliver the services they were promised, better education, better housing and better job opportunities.
Elusive piece of evidence
Sir, – William Kaczynski is the son of German Jews who came to Britain in July, 1939, aged just four.
After the outbreak of the war, his parents were interned as “enemy aliens.” Refugees from Hitler – some of whom had already been imprisoned inside the Reich – cruelly, were often interned despite having refugee status.
It was during this period that the very young William began collecting stamps and letters from family, commencing with a letter from his cousin, interned in Canada, to his mother.
William has almost finished writing his book Fleeing from the Fuhrer, a very unusual and substantial collection of postal history made up of letters, post cards, envelopes, ephemera and memorabilia from the Holocaust period.
Some of the items included are postal communications to and from concentration camp inmates, documents reflecting the Jewish plight under Hitler and other items which are by-products of the emigration of European Jewry in the late 1930s to countries all over the world.
William is still searching for one elusive piece of evidence for his fascinating book: a transit visa issued by Chiune Sugihara, who was the Japanese consul in Kovno, Lithuania. Defying the Japanese government, he issued approximately 3,500 exit visas, 2,000 of which helped Kovno Jews escape before the German invasion.
If anyone knows of the whereabouts of one of these transit visas, please contact me.