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April 27: Greece and Israel
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There is a lesson for Israel in the repercussions of the division of Cyprus on Greece.
Greece and Israel

Sir, – Regarding “For Greece’s economy, geography was destiny” (April 26), it is worthwhile to note that, pre- and post-World War I, Turkey was known as “the sick man of Europe.” Today Turkey is a strong player on the international scene, and the gloomy title now befits Greece.

What is missing from Robert Kaplan’s dissertation is any consideration of that modern event – the decision to end Greek control of Cyprus and the geo-political-economic consequences of dividing the territory between Greece and Turkey.

Given the ever-swelling cry to divide Jerusalem and further truncate the territory of Israel, there may be vital lessons to learn here, not only for Greece.


The wrong kind of Zionism?

Sir, – I was deeply disturbed by Michael M. Cohen’s article “Albert Einstein, Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu” (April 25). It was probably well-meant, but unfortunately fell into the trap of the worst and most dangerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli fib: that Israel is the only obstacle to peace and that we would have peace if only we chose Mr. Cohen’s kind of Zionism, which apparently involves the renunciation of safe borders and of territorial assets. We’ve been there and done that.

In other words, Mr. Cohen agrees with our enemies that we are to be blamed for the ongoing hostilities and that pressure should be applied on Israel until we see the light and embrace what he calls “cultural Zionism” (the prerequisite for which, I assume, would be that Hamas approves of it).

The supporters of this thesis always fail to include in their learned dissertations a description of the probable results of the implementation of their beautiful theories, possibly because the resulting obliteration of the State of Israel may not be well received by the general public.

I was particularly appalled by the crowning of Mr. Obama as a modern Zionist. It seems that Mr. Cohen has not paid attention lately. I wonder whom we will be labeling a Zionist next. Richard Goldstone? Muammar Gaddafi? Based on the logic of the article, that may well happen soon.


Sir, – I am puzzled by Michael M. Cohen’s use of “narrow nationalism” and “broader nationalism,” the latter of which he seems to equate with “cultural Zionism.” The only historically documented category is “cultural Zionism,” founded and perpetuated by Ahad Ha’am. This was in contrast to political Zionism, which advocated building an independent political entity in the Land of Israel by gathering in all of the Jewish people – a project that Ahad Ha’am opposed. Political Zionism proved itself with the establishment of the State of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a worthy successor both of Theodor Herzl and of Ahad Ha’am, standing proud and firm behind the importance of securing safe and defensible borders for the Zionist state, and defending the right of the Jewish people to sustain their own culture, a culture that for 3,000 years has placed Jerusalem at the heart of its visions and dreams.

To call Barack Obama a “cultural Zionist” or even a supporter of cultural Zionism is an extreme misuse of the term, far from Ahad Ha’am’s vision. Obama may be sincere in his own vision of balancing the interests of the Zionist state with those of Arab nationalism and Mideast geopolitics, but it is American interests and not Zionist interests that lie at the heart of his policies.


History of corruption

Sir, – The editorial soft-pedaling of current corruption in high places is as fatuous and feeble a piece of journalism as has crossed my desk in decades (“Corruption in proportion,” April 21). To try to pooh-pooh the cases under investigation now by comparing them to the Mapai-Labor period is another part of an ongoing attempt to rewrite and falsify history.

The only finance ministers who have been investigated by police were from the Likud, and one was found guilty. The alleged bribery of mayors, city officials and senior civil servants have become a plague since the ascension of the Right.

That there was corruption in the early days of statehood is true. Later, in the Rabin period, one cabinet minister committed suicide, protesting his innocence. One senior politician went to jail. The remaining one mentioned in your editorial was not a politician. He was a product of the Mizrahi religious movement, and was noted for his repentance for his misdeeds once convicted. There was, then, at least shame. That word does not seem to exist in the vocabulary of today’s so-called leaders.

The editorial uses the word “socialist” pejoratively. This is all part of the neo-con rewriting of history. Had your editorial writer known history, he or she would have known that David Ben-Gurion had abandoned socialism certainly after statehood, if not before. It was this combination of idealism and pragmatism which enabled Labor Zionism and its ally Religious Labor Zionism (Hakibbutz Hadati and parts of Hapoel Hamizrahi) to build this country, define its pre-1967 borders and create the basis of its economy, health and mutual aid systems. These pioneers were then, and some even later remained, “socialists.” It was a badge of honor and was motivated by the frail hope that human greed is manageable, that the human being can change.

The governments in those days were smaller, the first prime ministers better managers of the state, laying the basis for Israel’s military might while maintaining a level of concern for the weaker elements.

Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett and Levi Eshkol lived modestly, and acted with probity. On the Right, only prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir maintained a similar high level of personal probity. From then onward, it’s all been downhill where public morality is concerned.

The political system, which Ben-Gurion failed to change, can only lead to the outright bribery of political parties to stay in coalitions by crassly benefitting their voters. This is a major contributory factor in corruption, and was and is practiced by politicians from all sides. This plus today’s marriage of former Finance Ministry officials with banks, former defense industry and military officials with international arms trade and big business, and politicians with the so-called tycoons endanger Israel at least as much as does Iran.

If your readers think I am exaggerating, see the Bank of Israel governor’s warning about the economy and large corporations, and examine the top staffing of banks and of major capitalist enterprises by graduates of the finance ministry and the military-espionage-defense industrial complex.


Love triumphant

Sir, – In the midst of constant reporting on Israel’s domestic and international woes, it is a pleasant surprise to read Ariella Barker’s reflections on the too-often-ignored qualities of what a love-filled marriage entails (“Love vs. genetics,” April 26).

Not to be discouraged by a disappointing realationship or the dehumanizing aspects of the genetic argumentations of family planning, the writer emerges with convictions of hope for all of us: that, perhaps, the love and intimacy that can exists between two people should not be neglected while we strive to have perfect offspring; that what transpires in a loving union is not only to be holy, but is the ultimate trust in the Almighty.

Much appreciation to Ms. Barker for reminding us of some of our priorities.

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