Jun 2006 Journal

Letters to the Editor

Israelis and Palestinians

Sir - Inge Trott's letter, like the many reports in the media, has confused me. Many speak of the illegal occupation by Israel of some of the West Bank and some parts of Jerusalem. I am 85 years old and I have witnessed many events. I remember the '67 war and the admiration of the UK press and others for the way the plucky Israelis resisted their neighbours, who swore to drive them into the sea. Israel captured large tracts of its neighbours' land, only to give it back - the last piece of land being the Gaza Strip - leaving some areas in Israeli hands.

I found an article by Robert Fisk in The Independent (1 April 2006) very disturbing. He wrote, inter alia, about the massacre of Sabra and Chatila supposedly by Israeli troops. Similarly, the unlawful killing (inquest result) of the British journalist James Miller needs answering. I also do not like to see pictures of Arab homes being destroyed, allegedly to root out terrorists and to pay for suicide attacks. On the other hand, seeing Arab children provoking Israeli troops by throwing stones at them is not a very sensible thing to do.

Recently a reporter on the Radio 4 programme 'From Our Own Correspondent' talked about the Palestinians in their newly acquired Gaza Strip - how they fired mortar shells into Israeli territory, hitting schools, houses, killing children and their parents. I did not see this reported anywhere else. It does not encourage Israel to make concessions! I was heartened, however, by the Chief Rabbi's 'Thought for the Day' on 4 April when he talked about Daniel Barenboim's efforts to bridge the divide with music.

I feel too little attention is paid to the atrocities of others, whereas the Jews of Israel are singled out for condemnation. This does not excuse wrongdoing by Jews. It does, however, show that anti-Israel feelings are beginning to descend into growing antisemitism. We have all been here before!
Alex Lawrence, Marlow

Sir - Inge Trott's constant pro-Palestinian diatribe reminds one of a body of German Jews in the aftermath of Hitler's accession to power known as the Auerbachjuden. Their credo was that the Nazis' anti-Jewish ravings were in reality aimed not at German Jews, but at the despised Ostjuden. We all remember the error of that concept.
Herbert Haberberg, Barnet, Herts

Sir - Gisela Feldman and Henry Schragenheim (May issue), and others, give the impression that the entire readership of the AJR Journal is against my stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict. However, I am heartened by the fact that I am certainly not alone in my criticism of Israel.

I wonder if your readers listened to Daniel Barenboim's Reith Lectures, broadcast on Radio 4 in April and May. Together with the Palestinian Edward Said, Barenboim founded the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians. They have been performing with great success. Making music together encourages a greater understanding of each other's culture. Translated into political reality, it could put an end to the never-ending killings.

I cannot do better than quote from the address Barenboim gave to the Knesset in May 2004 when he received Israel's prestigious Wolf Prize, awarded to artists and scientists who have contributed notably to the benefit of mankind:

Can we, despite all our achievements, ignore the intolerable gap between what the Declaration of Independence promised and what was fulfilled, the gap between the idea and the realities of Israel? Does the condition of occupation and domination over another people fit the Declaration of Independence? Is there any sense in the independence of one at the expense of the fundamental rights of the other? Can the Jewish people, whose history is a record of continuous suffering and relentless persecution, allow themselves to be indifferent to the rights and suffering of a neighbouring people? Can the State of Israel allow itself an unrealistic dream of an ideological end to the conflict instead of pursuing a pragmatic, humanitarian one based on social justice?
Inge Trott, Cheam, Surrey

Letter from Israel

Sir - I fully agree with every word Bertha Leverton writes (May issue). But even if Dorothea Shefer-Vanson thinks that most of the matters Bertha mentions are brought to us by the daily newspapers and television, surely there must be more interesting events happening daily in Israel than the banalities she reports. At present, her column is a waste of valuable space in an otherwise excellent journal.
O. Findling, London

Sir - Whenever I visit Israel, I never fail to bump into someone I know: it's part of the excitement of the holiday fabric. It is a delight, therefore, to read Dorothea Shefer-Vanson's experience as related in her Letter from Israel column. Her articles are always of interest as they are almost personal communications from an old friend which I read with pleasure as they are so well written. Ms Shefer-Vanson is obviously a successful immigrant to Israel from these shores. May she enjoy many more intimate concerts.
Marcel Ladenheim, Surbiton, Surrey

Sir - I like to read the Letter from Israel and I am sure I am not the only one. It is a comforting thought that the Israelis can still laugh and chat about photographs and be thrilled because they met somebody who used to be a schoolmate in far-away England years so. It reminds me of the Londoners who, during the Blitz, would emerge after a night of hell from their air-raid shelters to carry on with their usual jobs. Let us be grateful that it is not all grief and doom in Israel.
Julie Franks, Westcliffe-on-Sea

Anti-Zionists and Antisemites

Sir - Antisemitism is a word that should be used sparingly, begins Bryan Reuben's thought-provoking article (April). It is, in fact, a word that should not be used at all. It derives from the Greek 'anti' and 'Semite' and was first coined in 1879 by the founder of the League of Antisemites, Wilhelm Marr, to designate the then current anti-Jewish campaign in Europe. Clothed in the pseudo-scientific, academic-sounding newspeak of the day, the word lends undeserved respectability to the idea hiding behind it - pure and simple hatred of Jews. It may be too late to eradicate the misnomer, but we can make a start by using the expression Jew-hatred or similar instead of antisemitism. Many hitherto acceptable words have disappeared in the last 50 years. Antisemitism, in time, may be one more.
Walter Goddard, Stanmore, Middx

Poles, Jews and Antisemites

Sir - Further to Professor Brent's and Peter Fraenkel's letters (April issue), perhaps the two gentlemen are not sufficiently acquainted with Poland, or perhaps they only attend organised events in the company of the intellectual elite. Had they visited the provinces and met up with ordinary people, they would no doubt modify their views.

I turned my back on that unhappy country - or rather it would be more correct to say that Poland spurned me, as manifested by the brutal attacks against the pitiful remnant after the liberation, including my hometown of Ostrowiec, where five survivors were cruelly done to death.

On a visit to Poland in the nineties, I found that little had changed. I encountered mostly hostility wherever I went. One may not sense this, keeping to the well-trodden path leading to the camps, to which most visitors head, or attending the Cracow Festival of Jewish Music and Culture, which, incidentally, the Poles never acclaimed when the Jews were around.

Professor Brent suggests that one should not dwell on the past. On the contrary, it is incumbent on us to honour the memory of the countless victims betrayed and murdered by Poles. Those 'passing' for non-Jews like my sister and I were, ironically, more afraid of Poles than Germans. The latter were gullible enough to believe in their own infallibility - that Jews were only to be found inside ghettoes and camps.

Eva Hoffman, whom Professor Brent quotes, is a gifted writer and a good 'ambassador' for Poland. She even disputes the figure of 1,600 Jews burnt alive by their neighbours in Jedwabne, based on the exhaustive study by Professor Jan T. Gross, and prefers to rely on a Polish source that came up with a figure of between 250 and 400. The Poles I have spoken to, both here and in Poland, conveniently blame it all on the Germans, and everything since the war on the Communists, as if the latter were not Poles. They remain adamant that they have nothing to answer for, as they themselves were victims of the Nazis.

Rubin Katz, London

Are there too many immigrants?

Sir - My naturalisation was completely different from Francis Deutsch's (May issue). I was not a minor (over 21) when I applied. It took a full two years before it was processed. I had a stringent interview at the Home Office, including a means test to prove I was not bankrupt. Twice I had to go to a Justice of the Peace - and had to pay £10, which was a fortune for me in those days, for the naturalisation. The letter accompanying the application form clearly stated that we had to be able to read and write English as well as speak it. Evidently they were satisfied with my knowledge of English and did not actually test it. The majority of us were 21 and over when we went through the process of naturalisation. We had no help with completing the forms.
(Mrs) A Saville, London NW4

Wiener Library Project

From September 2006, the Wiener Library will be offering up to 15 persons a unique opportunity to explore their family history and develop an in-depth understanding of the Holocaust. It is the first time in this country that a project specifically aimed at the 'Third Generation' - the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and refugees - has been undertaken.

The project will offer a series of linked seminars. Through using some of the specialist material available at the Wiener Library, the 15 participants will gain a clearer understanding of their families' past, the ongoing generational effects of exile and genocide, an understanding of where and how to access historical and genealogical information, and develop a sense of community with other members of the group.

If you know, or are aware of, any 'Third Generation' members who might be interested to find out more about this project, please ask them to contact me at the Wiener Library on 020 7636 7247 or email me at Lowenberg@WienerLibrary.co.uk.

We anticipate that the time commitment for the project will be up to six one-day meetings from September 2006 to February 2007. All reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed and lunch and refreshments provided.

Monica Lowenberg, Wiener Library, London