November 26: Ben-Gurion's 'pragmatism'

November 25 Ben-Gurion

Ben-Gurion's 'pragmatism' Sir, - Your reference to former prime minister David Ben-Gurion's "uncompromising" pragmatism ("Principle & pragmatism," November 24) is somewhat puzzling, as pragmatism in politics is the art of compromising on values and principles. Ben-Gurion did believe in supreme loyalty to the state, but only when he ruled it. His socialism meant loyalty to a non-Zionist cause - the cause of the workers - which hurt Zionism. He led a movement that promoted class warfare between Jewish owners and workers even in the still-developing Yishuv, hindering economic development and foreign investment. His party could not accept even the concept of national arbitration to resolve strikes. As for loyalty to Zionism, until 1942 he refused to declare a Jewish state as the goal of Zionism, even denying this before the Peel Commission. Ben-Gurion and his movement led a vicious smear campaign against Revisionists because they were perceived as enemies of the workers, despite the fact that on all major issues - the need for Jewish defense, operations against the British, the need to evacuate European Jewry, the need to openly declare the need for a Jewish state, the need for illegal Jewish immigration - Jabotinsky was right and Ben-Gurion was wrong and would later adopt Jabotinsky's positions. You mentioned the travesty of the sinking of the Altalena, in which Jewish immigrants and fighters were killed by Jews, which Ben-Gurion had the audacity to praise. But what about the saison, during which members of the Hagana kidnapped and informed on members of the Irgun to the British? What about the Arlosoroff affair, where two obviously innocent Betarim were accused by the Labor establishment of killing Labor leader Haim Arlosoroff, even though Arabs had confessed to the killing? And Ben-Gurion's refusal to bury Jabotinsky in Israel? Was all this laudable pragmatism? Of course, Ben-Gurion achieved much for the State of Israel, but it's time we stopped glossing over his campaign against any and all who disagreed, particularly some of the greatest Zionists like Jabotinsky and Begin, as holy pragmatism - which is, as you point out, often a justification for unbridled ambition. DANIEL TAUBER Jerusalem An unorthodox arrest... Sir, - Let me get this straight: The police arrest and detain a Jewish woman quietly praying in the women's section of the Western Wall because she disturbs Orthodox sensibilities by donning a tallit ("The offensive arrest," November 25), but they still have not found a way to control - never mind arrest - hundreds of haredi Jews who violently and publicly desecrate Shabbat and physically harm people and property? Am I missing something here, or has this country gone completely crazy? GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit ...that misses the real point Sir, - One can take issue or agree with most of the points Gil Troy makes regarding women at the Western Wall. But this is beside the point. The real issue, as Mr. Troy hints, is that the Western Wall plaza, "sanitized and cleansed of its rocky, rubbly history," is Judaism's "holiest site." The conventional wisdom that the wall is our holiest site does irreparable damage to the Jewish people, its state and its destiny. Judaism's holiest site is the area beyond the Kotel, with the wall being merely its outer perimeter, a stark scar that should only remind us of what once was and inspire us to pray for what will yet be. By aggrandizing the Western Wall, we betray its essence and abdicate our claim to the Temple Mount - something the world is only too glad to accept as axiomatic. JJ GROSS Jerusalem An oleh's business proposition Sir, - I was pleased to see the front-page article on Nefesh B'Nefesh ("North American aliya is a good investment for Israel, study finds," November 24), which confirmed things I knew intuitively about the important work it had done to professionalize and attract aliya from North America. I am proud to be an oleh who arrived with a family of seven five years ago, and can attest to the great job NBN is doing. However, if the government recognizes the importance of North American aliya and wants to encourage it, it would do well to heed a word of advice. When we made aliya, we purchased a car shortly afterward and were "privileged" to pay only 50 percent of the tax. Between the loss we took in selling our old van in the US and the tax we paid, there was a net expense of close to $20,000. We were lucky to have sold our house in the US and had the equity to make such purchases then. However, there are numerous people like us with mortgages, car loans, school loans and other expenses. Aside from the economic difficulty these present, the prospect of uprooting one's life to make aliya and then trying to sell belongings in the US only to incur vast expenses here is enough to keep people in their Diaspora homes. Further reducing, or eliminating, such taxes for new olim would be wise and a good business move, as the government surely is not getting rich on the limited tax revenues of selling a few hundred cars, at best. Conversely, if one large economic impediment preventing people from making aliya were removed, and 10 more families the size of mine were to immigrate, the income to the government over time would make up for the loss, simply through the VAT those families would be paying in building their lives here. JONATHAN FELDSTEIN Efrat From 'Boney' to Hamas Sir, - The knowledge that the Hamas Web site is encouraging suicide bombing among children all over the world and especially in Europe should strike terror into the hearts of all parents ("Hamas kid's Web site encourages suicide bombers in Europe," November 25). It used to be that mothers in England frightened their children with the statement, "Boney is coming," referring to Napoleon Bonaparte. Now parents will have to be aware that Hamas means to destroy their happy existence and make children participants in terror. I cannot fathom what is driving the world to accept this kind of evil except sheer cowardice and a lack of values. BATYA KOENIGSBERG Jerusalem A Schalit deal that speaks for itself Sir, - The article "Peres: Progress made toward deal for Schalit release" (November 23), contained so many reasons not to exchange our most recent missing soldier for hundreds of convicted criminals. Let's list them neatly: • It makes a mockery of the clean, careful and costly court cases that put them in jail. • It takes away the deterrence that jail is supposed to give, inviting a new intifada. • It takes away the retribution that jail should be, cruelly opening survivors' wounds. • Giving in to the blackmail will encourage more kidnapping attempts - a vicious cycle. • Releasing murderers just like that cheapens the blood of the people they killed. • Every security prisoner set free puts many civilians' lives and limbs in jeopardy. • It is a disgrace to free a plotter of mass murder and war crimes such as Marwan Barghouti. • It would boost Hamas's popularity and thereby ensure its election victory. Shocking when you see this list, no? Rhetorically we can ask which one is the worst; it's hard to tell. MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN Jerusalem A date to remember Sir, - In her roundup of November dates of Jewish interest ("Grapevine: November notes," November 25), Greer Fay Cashman omitted a very important date: November 2, Balfour Declaration Day. IDA SELAVAN SCHWARCZ Ganei Omer