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October 25: Gunboat diplomacy
Abbas's threat that failure at Annapolis will bring further violence is known as gunboat diplomacy. It won't work.
Gunboat diplomacy Sir, - Mahmoud Abbas's threat that "failure at Annapolis would lead to another round of violence in the Middle East" is just another ploy to pressure Israel to agree to the Palestinians' demands. This threat of violence is known as gunboat diplomacy, and it won't work. To capitulate to this violent threat is, in effect, to hand them everything they demand. It will be used as a starting point in every future negotiation ("PA encourages boycott of Annapolis unless deal reached beforehand," October 24) JERRY AND SYLVIA DORTZ Ariel Sir, - Ehud Olmert knows he'll have to give something, otherwise he wouldn't be going to Annapolis. Right now, the Arabs say they want the heart (Jerusalem) and the guts (Judea and Samaria). Since the consensus is that we must not give up Jerusalem, at least not at this point, he'll give up the guts. Then everyone will sigh with relief, as if he has saved us all from a worse fate. In fact, all that will be left for the next round of negotiations is the heart. And by that time, we won't have the heart to fight any longer. MIRIAM ADAHAN Jerusalem HOT and Al-Jazeera Sir, - If your reports concerning HOT's decision to drop CNN in favor of Al-Jazeera are accurate, one can only conclude that HOT's management is either stupid, gullible or just plain inept ("Regulate cable," October 24). Anyone who has watched Al-Jazeera will have been horrified by its insidious, relentless brainwashing. With obviously bottomless funding, it produces dazzling programs, slickly and brilliantly presented using the very latest in graphics and with a star-studded cast seduced away from other networks. But to the careful viewer the message, presented in tones of great seriousness of purpose and high intellect, is in fact one relentless assault on the West, particularly the US. And of course there is the "Israel angle," with again only the sharpest voices heard. All the interviewees, apart from the odd showcase dissenting voice, toe the station's "party line" as contempt for the West is brilliantly and subliminally implanted into the viewer's mind. There is constant harping on the plight of the underdog, especially in Africa, the blame always being laid at the same door: the West's. Equally obviously, there is a glorification of the world of Islam. That is the station's perfect right - but then Al-Jazeera should stop presenting itself as a paragon of honest reporting. Possibly that is true in the context of the Arab-Muslim world, but it falls very far short of the standards of the (despised) West. Let Al-Jazeera proudly claim to be the unabashed advocacy voice of Arabs-Muslims, and let the viewer make his choice. For many years Israel has felt aggrieved at what it perceives as CNN's unfair reporting. But compared to Al-Jazeera, CNN is a bastion of all that is fine and noble in the world of TV news. Does HOT's management really want to be responsible for helping Al-Jazeera propagate its dangerous disinformation? FREDA KEET Jerusalem The writer is a veteran broadcaster. Jesus's new religion Sir, - Shmuley Boteach's "Jesus was Jewish" (October 22) was dumbfoundingly out of context. To declare that Jesus was not teaching a new faith in the Gospels would require one to ignore about 95% of the Gospels and Epistles. Just because Jesus cited phrases from the Old Testament doesn't mean he was telling everyone to remain Jewish. If so, why were the Apostles sent to the Gentiles, and why did Paul preach against converting first to Judaism then to Christianity? The entire message of the New Testament is that there is no other way to Heaven than to believe in Jesus as Savior. Jesus was Jewish, yes, but he was pointing us toward a new religion. CLAYTON DONNELL Southampton, Pennsylvania Shmita and the need to feed Sir, - With all due respect to Rabbi Avi Shafran ("The truth about shmita," October 24), my perspective is different. One hundred years ago, the issue of the heter mechira was certainly about the survival of the farmer. Today the tables have turned, and I rarely see discussion of the biggest challenge to shmita observance in our time: We live in a country with the largest concentration of Jews in the world, and we need to feed our 5.5 million Jews on a daily basis. The ultra-Orthodox have conveniently arranged to buy non-Jewish-grown produce; but what about the other 5 million of us? I highly doubt there is enough non-Jewish produce grown in this country to feed all its Jews on a daily basis. Now consider the consequences: When a local municipal rabbi withdraws kosher certification from a restaurant using heter mechira produce, the restaurant is no longer required to close for Shabbat. If the restaurant is open on Shabbat, people will be drawn to it, resulting in an even greater desecration of the Sabbath. Instead of avoiding the issue, the Rabbinate should be working long and hard to craft a solution for everyone. If its rabbis see flaws in the heter mechira system, they should work to correct them. If in the end they still can't accept the heter mechira, let them design and/or support other halachic solutions such as otzar ha'aretz. The Rabbinate has the responsibility of ensuring that 5.5 million Jews in this country don't stumble. By rejecting the heter mechira without first having a viable alternative solution in place, they may bring about the very opposite of what they intend. ERIC POLLY Beit Shemesh Jewish lib Sir, - I was saddened to read that Leonard Zurakov has to go abroad during the High Holy Days to get a paper and watch great TV, and that he feels trapped when he can't do that in Israel ("Worst month ever," Letters, October 23). For living here, he has God on his side (Nachmanides on Numbers 33:53); for seeking happiness during the Festivals, Deuteronomy 16:11-15. And if he got to know people who invited him for holiday meals he would surely not be bothered by the absence of newspapers. Finally, more freedom can come from learning a bit of Torah (Ethics of the Fathers 6:2 on Exodus 32:16). He doesn't have to become "religious." Doing any of the above would only make him prouder of being Jewish and of living here. His only challenge might be dealing with anger about what he had been missing all these years - but better late than never. I can give this advice, because it's exactly what I've done. And I love it. M.M. VAN ZUIDEN Jerusalem Vanishing teaspoons Sir, - Some years ago, The Times of London printed the results of a study into the disappearance of teaspoons from works canteens and the like. Although there was no suggestion of theft in a wide survey of workplaces, it was found that "the half-life of an average teaspoon" (i.e., the length of the period in which half the spoons would disappear) was three months. The cause of this phenomenon was never found ("'And the dish ran away with the spoon,'" Letters, October 22). M. VEEDER Netanya
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