Feb 2007 Journal

Letters to the Editor

Every Jew's Duty

Sir - I have been shocked and saddened by the virulent anti-Israel feelings expressed in letters in the last two issues of your Journal. These seem to condemn the State of Israel unreservedly, totally ignoring the enormous contribution this tiny state has made in so many areas of human endeavour.

I refer in particular to the letter from Heinz Grünewald, who has no evidence for his assertion that 'a large proportion of your readers does not share your uncritical support of Israel', implying that they share his. Your readers will have good reason to remember what the Nazis did to our people and will find the comparison with the IDF odious. They will also be conscious of the fact that had the State of Israel existed then, our dearest relatives, whom many of us lost, would have been offered an unconditional haven, and the Holocaust might never have happened!

As for the letter from Peter Zander, of course he is entitled to voice his opinion about Israel whenever and wherever he wants to do so. However, he would not have been able to do so in (pre-war) Germany, whose nationality he apparently carries proudly. His perception of Israel based on his visit in around 1970 is unique. His advice to 'turn the other cheek' is one that has failed to be adopted by any country trying to deal with suicide bombers who hide among civilians and target women and children.

I strongly support the State of Israel - not in the sense of 'my country right or wrong', but as the only democracy in the Middle East and for its disproportionate (an adjective never used in this context by its enemies) contribution to the world in the many fields of human endeavour. This entitles me, and those who share my view, to be critical of some of its actions, but never to question its moral right to exist.
Dr Kurt Schapira, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir - I refer to the letters from Messrs Zander and Steiner, who both appear to resent Israel's existence. Mr Zander's letter is full of spite against Israel. He refers to 'the most famous Jew ... turning the other cheek'. I know of no example of his followers ever doing this: they have engaged in crusades and pogroms and waged endless wars.

As for Mr Steiner, apparently he is a genetics expert, declaring it as fact that Jews of today have no genetic inheritance from the ancient people of Israel. True, there has been intermarriage, but Jewish communities are almost certainly descended from the people of Israel. The only race I can belong to is the Jewish race, which takes its name from Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Finally, Mr Steiner has another brainwave and becomes Hitler's apologist. The Holocaust was no fault of his - it was all due to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was, of course, fully justified because he did not want the Jews to emigrate to Israel. So that's alright then - it was all the fault of the Jews!
M. Storz, London N16

Sir - Peter Zander's 'I take my integrity with me wherever I go' is the gem of the month. He deserves his halo. Peter Phillips is wrong in the narrow sense, but right in the wider one. Legally, no Jew who is not a citizen of Israel owes any duty to that state.

I wish to say that any Jew in the Diaspora could, on request, obtain Israeli nationality and identify with the country which is the ultimate guarantee for the existence of the Jewish people. Duties, I hasten to add, would mean obligations and confirm rights to dissent from the policies of the government, immoral or illegal acts, and, for example, discrimination against fellow Arab citizens - in short, oppositionist opinions held by half of the Israeli electorate to the stance of the government.
Fred Hirsch, Pinner, Middx

Sir - I was hurt by the critical letters re Peter Phillips's remarks on Israel. What did he actually say that was so offensive? Only that we Jews from all over the globe should be grateful to have at last a Jewish state and that it should be natural to support it. Is that such a terrible thing?

We were kicked out from country to country and now, thank G-d, we have Israel, which gives us a sense of belonging. Some of us prefer to live in our adopted country, but isn't it comforting to feel that our genetic country is always there to receive us with open arms?
Bettine Le Beau, London N3

Sir - Jews are a race. Sorry to disappoint so many of your readers. The Race Relations Act 1976 provides that a 'racial group' is defined by 'colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins' and recognises that anyone can belong to several racial groups simultaneously. Broadly, the criteria are visual and/or cultural. Even before the act became law, government and opposition agreed that Jews and Sikhs were patent examples of racial groups. Legislation granting similar protection to faith groups has recently been enacted and we shall soon see what effect this legislation will have.
Francis Deutsch, Saffron Walden

Sir - I have been a Zionist since the age of ten, when we fled to Prague because there was nowhere else to go. After the Germans occupied the Czech lands, we knew we were doomed. We said that, should we survive, a state of Israel would do so in the future. For most, there was no future.
Frank Bright, Ipswich

Sir - Why are so many of your correspondents anxious to distance themselves from Jewish religious practice or Zionism or both? It didn't do them any good in the 1930s and it wouldn't save them now.
Professor Bryan Reuben, London N3

Sir - Sad to read that Peter Zander is, as usual, having a problem with Israel. Also, we have Gerald Kaufman's hobby: every time he opens his mouth, he talks hatefully about Israel. These Jews are able to read historical facts - that we originally came from ancient Israel. Had the Romans not taken our state away, we would never have been scattered across the world.
Clare Parker, London NW3

ir - On reading the letter of Peter Zander, it occurs to me that he should be excommunicated along with members of Neturei Karta who attended the notorious conference on the Holocaust in Tehran.
Janos Fisher, Bushey Heath, Herts

Sir - Does Peter Zander also deny the Holocaust?
Victor Ross, Great Chart, Kent

Returning to Germany

Sir - I am strictly Orthodox and feel hurt by some of your articles. I cannot understand how anyone can go back to Germany and enjoy it. After all these years, I cannot forgive or forget.
Mrs B. Cohen, Salford, Lancs

Israel and the Holocaust

Sir - No army is perfect, no state is perfect - but to suggest that the Israel Defence Forces, who every day put their lives on the line for the protection of not only the inhabitants of Israel but of the Jewish people as a whole, perform actions similar to those of the SS and other Nazi troops can only come from a mind brainwashed by the media. Mr Grünewald and those of like mind, you would not have had to mourn relatives who perished in the Holocaust if there had been a state of Israel in existence in the 1930s.
Freddie Ingram, Newcastle

Sir - I am by no means a reader whose support for Israel is 'uncritical'. Nevertheless, the assertion by Heinz Grünewald is not only sickening but bewildering. Not even the vile propaganda of Ahmadinejad has reached this level.
Werner Maior, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir - I wish people would stop bringing the Holocaust into every argument as a justification for everything Israel does. Perhaps if Israel couldn't rely on the unconditional support of America and Britain, it might be more willing to show some understanding for the Palestinians and things might improve.
Erika Millman, London W3

Sir - Heinz Grünewald's letter made welcome reading. I can imagine the brickbats ready to be hurled at him for daring to compare IDF activities with those of the Nazis. He will also be called a self-hating Jew, as I have been. One can be a Jew as well as being critical of what right-wing Israelis are doing in our name. As for Anthony Grenville's accusation of bias of our BBC, I challenge him to quote examples of such bias.
Inge Trott, Cheam, Surrey

A Good Egg

Sir - Congratulations on Anthony Grenville's excellent article on Günter Grass (January) - a great writer and a decidedly good egg. I would go further and say that even his silence about his brief sojourn with the Waffen SS at the age of 17 can be excused. We are not obliged to reveal all our youthful errors to the world (or, for that matter, our later ones either).
Gerda Mayer, London E4

The Bombing of Dresden

Sir - Karl Bettelheim (December) could not be more wrong! The prime cultural heritage of Dresden is recognised by everyone - although the many SS prisoners recorded as detrained in Dresden and marched past its citizens and monuments to slave labour camps and death may have had other matters in mind.

Tutored by Guernica, Rotterdam and Coventry, our armed forces were obliged to prioritise war-winning action higher than cultural interests. Dresden was an important transport node for troops, equipment and supplies supporting the busy perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Our lives as Kindertransport survivors were undoubtedly saved by brave RAF bombers over Dresden in concert with many other British armed forces. We are glad that they won the war even as they returned the Luftwaffe's evil wind as an RAF whirlwind.

Dresden, quite close to Buchenwald and very close to Theriesenstadt, could probably smell smoke drifting from the murderers' chimneys of distant industrial killings. We should never denigrate those who fought for us over Dresden - we thank the RAF.
Fred Barschak, London NW6 and Bob Rosner, Hessle, Hull

Sir - No argument that Dresden was a cultural gem. If the Germans wanted it preserved, they should have declared it an 'open city'.

In February 1945 Dresden was the only major railway junction left serving both the eastern and western fronts, contributing substantially to Allied troop casualties. The port facilities along the Elbe were used for the same purpose. It was also pointed out to me some years later that within sight of the city was an aircraft maintenance plant, known as Heinkelwerft, which serviced the remainder of the Luftwaffe. Dotted around the perimeter and within the city were a number of industrial plants serving the German war effort. In every sense Dresden was a legitimate military target.

Perhaps Mr Bettleheim would agree that culture has a wider impact than the preservation of bricks and mortar.
Herbert Haberberg, Barnet

Sir - When I was growing up, there was an iconic belief that played on the mind of our parents. It was based on nostalgic reminiscence that the Austrian and German peoples were Kultur Menschen and nothing terrible would happen to us. That notion went up in flames during Kristallnacht.

Your reader, who so glibly writes about the shame of the destruction of Dresden, has a very short memory or had a very homely war. Had he been in the East End of London when it was ablaze and the unfortunate survivors were forced to sleep on the platforms of the underground stations for the rest of the war, he would have learned the meaning of total war.

When I visited Bergen-Belsen after the liberation some survivors questioned what took us so long. Every day the war was shortened by any means saved lives.

The 50,000 men of Bomber Command suffered horrendous losses, but their sacrifice helped to shorten the long war and ensured that so many of us survived the carnage. If the cost of our survival is weighed against the destruction of Dresden, which incidentally played a very important part in the German war effort, so be it!
H. P. Werth, Edgware, Middx

Sir - Mr Bettleheim hasn't the slightest idea of what was going on behind the scenes. The German army, in retreat, was passing Dresden and had established its own HQ, commanded by a high-ranking officer. We also knew of the factories converting brown coal to fuel. It was this that provoked the bombing of Dresden - not knowing the exact position of these factories, there was no alternative to carpet-bombing the city. To tell us that we destroyed a wonderful culture is ridiculous - by starting the Second World War, the Germans did it themselves!
Rolf Weinberg, Sidcup, Kent