Jul 2007 Journal
Letters to the Editor
ISRAEL: TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD
Sir - Caroline M. Salinger (Letters, May) proves how deeply implanted anti-Israel propaganda is in the public’s conscience. She repeats every falsehood (‘Israeli policy of dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people’) based on the thoroughly discredited ramblings of a few disgruntled IDF renegades, slanted reports by Israeli human rights groups, and academics like Dr Ilan Pappe, who roam the globe attacking Israel with the most foul lies.
Certain Israeli human rights groups are heavily financed by foreign interests inimical to Israel’s best interests and, in order to keep the funds rolling in, they supply their bosses with juicy, but rarely credible, concoctions. An investigation by an Israeli newspaper not only revealed the large sums Peace Now was receiving but also the falsity of its reports. This is also true of B’tselem and groups like those Ms Salinger mentions, some of whom accused ‘settlers’ of ‘deliberately killing unarmed’ Arabs, including children, and destroying Arab olive trees. These accusations, though eventually proven false, caused immense damage to the image of the 300,000 law-abiding Jews in Judea/Samaria.
The olive-tree fabrication was exposed only after ‘settlers’ set up cameras around olive groves which caught Arabs and their left-wing allies destroying the trees themselves! No similar fuss was ever made about the destruction of thousands of Jewish fruit trees by Arabs!
It is most offensive that people like Salinger show no concern about Israeli ‘unarmed civilian targets’, including children deliberately killed by Arabs, leaving more than 150 dead and hundreds maimed since the signing of the Oslo ‘peace’ accords in 1994. Two examples: (1) In 2001 a CIA-trained PA sniper shot Shalhevet Pas, a 10-month-old ‘settler’ baby girl, through the head as her father pushed her pram near their home; (2) A 29-year-old, 8-months pregnant ‘settler’ mother, Tali Hanuel, was shot at close range together with her 4 small ‘settler’ daughters after their car was attacked by 2 ‘poor, humiliated’ Arabs.
Dr Pappe was booed by left-wing fans during a recent lecture at London University when he declared seeing ‘IDF soldiers playing football with the heads of Palestinian babies’! It seems that even his most faithful admirers realised he had gone too far this time! Hopefully, others will also reject mendacious anti-Israel propaganda from unscrupulous sources.
Sir – My friend Hans Seelig might care to elaborate how he imagines Israel could defend itself by ‘internationally acceptable means’ at the same time as being subjected to continuous rocket bombardment. Does he consider the rocket bombardment of Israeli civilians internationally acceptable?
At present, the Iranian President and his government are paying lip service to the destruction of Israel while they still have reason to be scared of tiny Israel. The moment Israel’s leaders were to confine themselves to an ‘internationally acceptable defence policy’ à la Neville Chamberlin’s Munich, lip service would turn into action. Surely we German and Austrian ex-refugees of all people should have learned by now our lesson that finger-wagging and wrist-slapping will never stop bloodthirsty antisemitic dictators.
Mr Seelig rightly points out that had Israel existed in the 1930s, there might well have been no Shoah. I should add that had Hitler been stopped by force in time, there would have been no Second World war and no Auschwitz. By sticking to internationally acceptable means - in other words, by pussyfooting in the face of Iranian threats - we may well have to wait this time rather longer than just 1,900 years for the next State of Israel to arise.
Sir – With regard to the shocking proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions, was there ever a boycott of academic institutions behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, of rogue oppressive regimes, of countries harbouring Islamist terrorists, etc? No, Israel is fair game because everyone knows that Israel will not retaliate by declaring a bloody fatwah, as others might.
Sir - I am delighted to be able to disillusion M. Storz. Of course there are Palestinian organisations working for a peaceful solution and non-violent resistance – the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy, the inspiring Hope Flowers School in Bethlehem and many Arab-Jewish ventures such as Ta’ayush and the MidEastWeb Group for Coexistence.
M. Storz also misread my objection to the separation wall – not that it has reduced the number of suicide bombings, but where it is has been built, way beyond the Green Line. One cannot but suspect a motive of land acquisition otherwise it would have been routed through land recognised internationally as Israel’s territory.
M. Storz doubts the veracity of the Israeli officers who refuse to ‘dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people’. Allow me to recommend Breaking Ranks, by Ronit Chacham – a moving account of how experienced officers felt compelled to take a stand against army behaviour in the Occupied Territories.
If Mr Kolman wants to talk about historical expulsions he should read the diaries of Ben-Gurion, which make clear the policy of the Haganah leadership: ‘to expel the Arabs and take their places … and if we have to use force ... then we have force at our disposal’ (1936).
For those who continue to insist that it is acceptable to keep silent despite our knowledge of what Israel is doing in the Occupied Territories, let me quote the Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer: ‘Thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.’
‘ON BEING JEWISH’
Sir – Edith Argy writes (May) that being Jewish is an accident of birth and half-quoting the prophet Micah is all there is to being Jewish. No! There is very much more to being Jewish. It is most unfortunate that by the beginning of the twentieth century most Jews in Western Europe considered their Jewishness just an accident of birth. Indeed, it was the least important thing in their lives and they were in a state of utter shock and disbelief when, under Hitler, it became the most important item in their life. They had always wanted to assimilate and they did so outwardly. The gentile population still considered Jews an alien population and were treated as such. It has been well described as ‘unrequited love’.
Those Jews who managed to escape, although still calling themselves ‘Jewish’, were really ‘fellow persecutees’ with little adherence to Judaism. They remained just as ignorant of the practices and principles of Judaism as they had been previously.
The Nazis considered us a race but this idea is foreign to Judaism. Anyone is free to join the Jewish people. The Bible has defined us in Exodus Ch 19:6 as ‘A kingdom of priests and a holy nation’.
What constitutes ‘being Jewish’? I can do no better than refer to the Hertz Chumash (Pentateuch), page 926, where he defines the content of Jewish education: the principles of the Jewish religion; the Hebrew language; knowledge of the Bible; the history of our people.
Just ‘being Jewish’ or being ‘good Jews’ will not prevent our children from marrying non-Jews - and that will be the end of Judaism and all we stand for.
Sir – I couldn’t agree more with Edith Argy. I was born in Prague between the First and Second World Wars. I was not instructed in the Jewish religion but knew I was Jewish, which my family realised the hard way after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. I am aware of my Jewishness; I am deeply interested in Israel’s affairs; I respect religious people, but cannot join them. I am a secular Jew and I belong to the human race, as so well phrased by Edith Argy.
Edith Argy wishes to ‘belong to one race only – the human race’. I learned in my English lessons that ‘The more I see of people, the more I like my cat.'
JEWISH AT WHAT PRICE?
Sir – When I came to England it was because we were Jewish and we fled for our lives. I then ‘married out’. It is now 62 years on. My marriage was a great success and I don’t regret a moment of it. Of course, I want to be buried Jewish. It is in my blood and in my mind. It was always accepted by my family.
Did not the Austrian Kultusgemeinde send me a certificate that I was an ‘Honourable Member’, did my birth certificate not state that I was Jewish, of Jewish parents, and does Austria not list me as a Jewish refugee? But it costs about £5,000 more to be buried Jewish than the average burial. And there lies my dilemma: is my Jewishness worth an extra £5,000?
TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST
It turns out that this is an interesting document analysing failures and shortcomings in the way history is taught in some schools. Nowhere is there mention of teachers dropping subjects - rather that they are not included in the curriculae of some schools because of, e.g, lack of teacher subject knowledge; paucity of resources; teacher avoidance of risk-taking.
The report goes on to analyse the problems of teaching controversial and emotive subjects such as the Holocaust, Britain and the Slave Trade, Islam, Arab/Israeli Relations etc., many of which are taught at A-level. It quotes examples of how these subjects are being taught successfully in schools across the country and gives guidelines as to the methods and techniques to be employed. The report concludes with a section entitled Good Practice and case studies, suggesting how History should be taught, including, e.g., visits to the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition.
I found the report encouraging in the ideas it put forward to stimulate discussion in order to get students to have a rounded understanding of historical subjects. It is therefore a pity, in my view, that this news item was presented in your journal in such a negative way. It might be a good idea if you were to give a fuller report, thus helping to lower the blood pressure of your readers. We have a tendency to be a bit paranoid when it comes to topics of this sort and I feel that we should also welcome and signal positive steps taken to correct the balance.
SO MANY POINTS OF VIEW
Sir – I congratulate you on your policy of neutrality and balance in the articles and letters, which express so many points of view, not always in sympathy with mine. In this instance, Edith Argy’s ‘On Being Jewish’ and Victor Ross’s ‘Restoration Comedy’, as well as many of the letters, were to my liking. Victor may well feel more than disgruntled, but his style of expression made me chuckle.
A LAUGHING MATTER
Sir – Where did you find Victor Ross? He made me laugh about not getting compensation – quite a feat! He reminds me of Richard Grunberger. Maybe he’s RG come back? More of Victor Ross please!
Sir - No wonder Richard Grunberger felt sick at the concept of ‘Schleim’ (review, May). Perhaps because of that we called porridge oats ‘Haferflocken’ in the Vienna of my childhood.