October 4: A gauntlet thrown

Despite being considered a Jewish neighborhood, Gilo is in east Jerusalem and is therefore automatically subject to controversy.

A gauntlet thrown
Sir, – Building in Gilo at this time (“Gilo construction could derail Quartet’s peace initiative, say US, EU diplomats,” October 2) is an absurdity.
Despite being considered a Jewish neighborhood, it is in east Jerusalem and therefore automatically subject to controversy.
But doing so before the UN Security Council votes on the Palestinian bid for statehood is like throwing down a gauntlet. It is the very same mistake that was made during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden.
A government that displays an inability to learn from its mistakes is a government that creates doubts among both its friends and its foes, whether at home or abroad.
Sir, – If the planned Gilo construction “raised doubts whether the Israeli government was interested in the resumption of serious negotiations,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is quoted as saying, perhaps it can be asked whether the Quartet is really interested in a just solution.
While Netanyahu gives in to pressure and doesn’t build, the Arabs are building a new city, Rawabi, in the West Bank. Not only is there no controversy, it enjoys the support of the Quartet, perhaps because it satisfies what the world really wants: to push out the Jews and get the Arabs in.
Sir, – It was quite certain that the announcement of 1,100 new housing units in Gilo would provoke strong reactions from our friends as well as our enemies.
My question is why such bombastic announcements always come at sensitive moments? My suggestion is quite simple.
As actor Eli Wallach said in a famous Western: If you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk. So if you have to build, then build, don’t talk.
HENRY WEIL Jerusalem
Sir, – I read with great interest the op-ed piece by Nicholas D. Kristof (“On top of famine, unspeakable violence,” Comment & Features, October 2) about the heart-breaking stories of the refugees from Somalia streaming into Kenya.
I searched the article a number of times for mention of UN sanctions or condemnations, or any statements from the EU or other such august bodies. No mention was made of any of these organizations’ involvement in condemning the rape, murder and mutilation of these poor souls.
Yet as soon as Israel announces that a building is being built in Gilo, the aforementioned organizations trip over each other to condemn such announcements as being contrary to actions for peace.
Maybe the UN, the EU and others should read Kristof’s article.
It might actually enable them to discuss something other than an Israeli building project.
ZE’EV M SHANDALOV Ma’aleh Adumim
A train too far
Sir, – Your October 2 editorial “Taking passengers hostage” mandates a dramatic reaction by the government. The passengers were indeed hostages, as were those stuck at Ben-Gurion Airport for the Rosh Hashana “toast.”
If a terrorist group (even without weapons) had seized a train or blocked a train line or stopped international air traffic, our government’s reaction would have been extreme. It should be in these cases as well.
If we are a civilized and developed nation, the perpetrators of acts such as these need to be punished severely. Throw the book at them. We know who the train crew members were. Are they still employed by Israel Railways? Were they even punished?
Sir, – The story of the railway workers taking passengers hostage filled me with horror.
That such blatant cruelty could be applied to passengers to further the claims of the workers’ union would be horrific enough if occurring in non-democratic countries. But for it to happen in Israel is shameful and disgusting.
I have no legal expertise, but I am sure the workers can be convicted of a criminal offense. Failing this, the passengers on that train should get together and sue the railway workers for causing unnecessary and possibly dangerous suffering.
Got off light
Sir, – It was pleasant to read about Jason Pearlman’s convivial exchanges about Israel (“Ideology at the checkout,” Comment & Features, October 2). But they took place in tolerant northwest London, where the Jewish presence has reached what might be termed a “significant proportion” (i.e., something well under 20 percent of the population) in what is increasingly a multi-ethnic population.
What Pearlman happily failed to encounter is the widespread anti- Israel sentiment that has become the accepted norm in left-wing circles. Across a broad swath of British opinion-formers – from national media like The Guardian, The Independent and, sadly, the BBC, to the trade union movement and leading figures in academia – there is a total absence of empathy for Israel or its cause.
Pro-Palestinian sentiment is so strong that it is commonplace to see Israel compared to apartheid South Africa, and consequently to find a consistent effort by activists to isolate Israel by supporting the boycott of Israeli academics and exports.
The lack of logic in making common cause with anti-democratic Arab regimes and Islamist entities like Hamas, which oppose all causes dear to British left-wing hearts (like equal rights for women and tolerance for gays), rather than with the flourishing democracy that is Israel seems totally lost in the current anti-Israel – and, one fears, anti- Jewish – sentiment that grips this area of British life.
Don’t hold your breath
Sir, – For this consumer, “Thar’s oil in them thar Israeli rocks” (Business & Finance, October 2) sounds too good to be true. The whole escapade balances on optimistic estimates for the future and a theory that the state might want to pass gasoline discounts on to the consumer.
What theory? Not in the three million years it takes nature to turn sea creatures into oil will our government pass up an opportunity to tax us through the nose for anything and everything.
It is a threat
Sir, – In “A prayer for 5772” (Column One, September 28), Caroline B. Glick cites research linking American Jewry’s loyalty to the Democratic Party with a tendency to “wildly exaggerate Evangelical anti-Semitism.” She implies that the American Jewish community is out of touch with reality, and rather than combat “relatively benign anti-Semitism” should place its priorities on “the escalating dangers of Muslim anti-Semitism.”
I believe Glick might have misread the American Jewish public’s concern. Its perception of Evangelicals may have little to do with partisan politics or the issue of anti-Semitism. Perhaps American Jews are concerned about spiritual self-preservation and the danger of assimilation.
Evangelizing Christians, who are increasingly identifying themselves as “messianic Jews,” pose a very real threat to Jewish identity. In addition, American Jews are living at a time and in a place where mega-churches thrive and Jesus sits on Capitol Hill. Israelis, on the other hand, live with an up-close and personal day-to-day threat from adherents of radical Islam.
The reality and priorities for Jews is relative, depending on which side of the world one lives. Perhaps we should pray that this year American Jews and Israelis will understand each other and give equal consideration to the existential, physical and spiritual threats facing the Jewish people.