Leo Baeck 1


Jun 2007 Journal

Letters to the Editor


Sir – In his attack on Peter Zander’s ‘Israel-bashing’ (March), Rubin Katz seems to forget that in this country we celebrate freedom of expression as well as of the press, even if certain views seem distasteful to some. ‘Israel-bashing’ is an emotive term intended to silence all but the blind acceptance of everything Israel says or does. It needs to be used with care (as does ‘self-hating Jew’).

It is perfectly legitimate for us to criticise Israel, however severely, and have those views published in our AJR Journal when we feel that the country’s behaviour conflicts with our perception of Jewish and civilised ethics - above all the duty to treat other people and peoples, including our enemies, with justice and humanity. If we feel that this behaviour is contrary to international law and our moral expectations, we have every right – indeed, duty – to say so.

I am not myself a Zionist - meaning that I do not wish to emigrate to that country. At the same time, I am no anti-Zionist. Israel has every right to exist and defend itself and its citizens - but by internationally acceptable means. Had it existed in the 1930s, there might well have been no Shoah: certainly, many Jews, including many of my own family, would have survived the war.

I would prefer that most Jews be able to live in the Diaspora as a beacon for our values and way of life. When the Hitlers of this world refuse to accept our integration, it is they and not we who are wrong.

I can assure Mr Katz that, whatever we say, most of us, deep down, care very much about Israel.

Hans Seelig, Hemel Hempstead

Sir – Re Ms Salinger’s letter (May), I am sure nobody would wish to condone a policy of ‘expelling and starving’ an entire people - if that is indeed true, as I have read nowhere else about people being expelled or starved. As for the separation wall, she conveniently forgets how many people were blown up before this was built.

I certainly do not believe in my country right or wrong, and if the Israeli government pursues wrongful policies, I agree it should be criticised. Ms Salinger mentions the many Israeli organisations which are doing just that, which is surely a great compliment to the Israeli people. Can she name equivalent Arab or Muslim organisations protesting against the use of suicide bombs and the deliberate teaching of hatred of the Jews and who advocate peace and the acceptance of the State of Israel? I very much doubt it.

There are far worse things that are going on in the world which should appal Ms Salinger. Such as the situation in Sudan or in Iraq or the recent plot to commit mass murder in this country for no apparent reason other than to purse ‘jihad’ against non-Muslims.

In any case, the conflict in the Middle East is not about the policies of the Israeli government but purely about the existence of the State of Israel itself. Instead of concentrating exclusively and obsessively on alleged Israeli wrongdoings, Ms Salinger should tell us whether she approves of the use of suicide bombers, of indoctrinating children to hate Jews, and of the use of crude anti-Jewish propaganda which seeks to demonise the Jewish people. 

M. Storz, London N16


Sir – Congratulations, Ms Salinger, for doing the BBC’s and other public news agencies’ work for them. They also only list the misdeeds of the Israelis and not the causes.

Gaza was evacuated – now it has a rocket launcher aimed at Israelis instead of being used to benefit the Palestinians. The Occupied Territories became occupied when Israel was attacked. Very few countries return territory gained when they had to defend themselves. Israel never started a war. You never mention the constant fear of allowing your children to attend functions. Suicide bombers strike to kill innocent civilians. I wonder how other countries would react to people crossing the border to kidnap soldiers. Of course, no decent human being would condone cruelty to other human beings. Violence begets violence. It is difficult to be judged when you are surrounded by people who want your demise.
Giselda Feldman, Manchester

Sir – Sad that fellow Jews should be so critical of Israel. In 1939 I came here with the Kindertransport, the sole member of a very happy and loving family unit. We had become completely assimilated in Austria. If only Israel had been there, as a bolt hole! Jews have no other homeland and there is still antisemitism. Also, many of Israel’s neighbours, sadly, don’t want them to survive, even to exist.

Yes, I too think Israel takes wrong decisions. But please remember there is bloodshed and sadness and loss on both sides. Sadly, news in some famous newspapers is rather economical with the truth about the Middle East. We Jews need Israel.
R. W.

Sir – The thought processes of some of your readers are unfathomable. Mr Vajifdar (May) thinks the current upsurge of antisemitism is due to Israeli policies. He obviously has not heard of the Crusades, the pogroms of the Middle Ages or the Holocaust - all long before Israel existed.

Caroline Salinger, who quotes a motley collection of Jewish fringe organisations in her support, might usefully dwell on the complete expulsion by Russia of Poles and of Germans by Poles and Czechs after the Second World War. No so-called international lawyers or, for that matter, the UN have called for the return of territories or populations - or does ‘illegal appropriation of land’ apply only to Israel?

Ernest G. Kolman, Greenford, Middx

Sir - When a retired Israeli judge, sufficiently respected to be given the task of producing an assessment of the Israeli military action in Lebanon last year, considers that the action was ‘ill thought out’, was not based on a detailed military plan, and was pursued without considering other options and without consultation outside the army, does this report make him an enemy of Israel? If I, along with many others, thought along these lines at the time, were we all enemies of Israel, as a number of your correspondents alleged?

Marc Schatzberger, York


Sir – I greatly enjoyed reading Bryan Reuben’s review of Colin Shindler’s book What Do Zionists Believe? (May). However, the penultimate paragraph raises some small problems. (Incidentally, the expulsion of the Hashemites from Saudi Arabia took place in 1921, not in the 1930s, causing the British their small problem – of quickly finding substitute countries for two brothers who had just lost theirs, i.e. Jordan and Iraq.)

I am not sure whether it is helpful to date Palestinian self-perception of their own nationality and identity. The famous reply in the 1960s to Golda Meir when she said ‘There are no Palestinians’ was ‘There are now – and you helped to make them!’

It is almost wholly immaterial whether or not Arabs and their descendants, who presently live on land that once formed part of Mandated Palestine, and conceive themselves as having a different identity from that of Syrians, Jordanians and other Arabs, hold this belief on grounds that are illogical or historically inaccurate. What matters is that they believe it. And any attempt to reach a settlement that ignores that belief is doomed to failure. This holds equally true for the other side - denial of the rights of the Jews as a nation is well matched by the denial of the rights of the Palestinians as a nation.

The way forward for both nations will arrive when both are prepared to replace the old saying ‘Divide and rule’ by something more positive – ‘Divide and live’.
Fred Barschak
London NW6
Fred Barschak


Sir - I, like Professor Novak (Letters, May), have often felt that the Journal reflected mainly German/Austrian Jewish refugees. I come from Teplitz Schonau in Sudetenland, where my mother’s family had lived for some 200 years; my father came from Budapest. While one hears so often of German/Austrian towns welcoming refugees back to the towns of their origin, in an act of reconciliation, one never hears of this happening in the Czech, Slovak, Hungarian or Polish towns – or, if it does, it is not reported in the Journal. As the AJR’s East Midlands ‘contact’, I would be happy to hear from and about other Czechoslovak Jewish refugees.

Bob Norton, Nottingham

Sir - I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Novak. I also read the Journal with great interest from cover to cover and I too am disappointed not to find articles reflecting the experiences of refugees from countries other than the German-speaking ones. I was one of the children that Nicholas Winton brought out of Czechoslovakia via the Kindertransports - even this German name reflects the way we were outnumbered by those from Germany and Austria.

Maybe the fault lies within ourselves. If we were to contribute articles of interest to the Journal, our voices would be heard.
Bronia Zelenka Snow, Esher, Surrey


Sir – The Journal (May issue) came this morning. To my great surprise I found in it your salute to me. How can I ever thank you? I am somewhat embarrassed about so much recognition in my old age. The Journal has much improved since your editorship! I have subscribed to it for many years.

Wolf Suschitzky, London W2


Sir - As Anthony Grenville said in his piece about the Thank-Offering to Britain Fund (May), my father, Hans Blumenau, was one of the original members of the Fund’s committee. Like a good democrat, he accepted the majority decision of the committee, but he deeply regretted, as I do to this day, that the very considerable amount of money raised (£96,000 in 1965 was the equivalent of about £1,440,000 today) was spent on a series of academic lectures which, once given to small audiences, were quickly forgotten, and on research fellowships to individuals the result of whose research for the most part sank equally rapidly into oblivion.

Many of the contributors had hoped that the money would be spent on a distinguished sculpture to be erected in a public place which would be seen by millions of passers-by and remind them (and their descendants) not only of our gratitude but also of Britain’s role in deserving it.

Ralph Blumenau, London W11

Sir – Re thanking Britain, to some extent I agree - but not all the way. Have you forgotten that many were interned on the Isle of Man, some very elderly? My father was there for three years. Many mistakes were made. Some were sent to Canada and Australia, who were expecting PoWs: they were astonished when out came elderly civilians – Jewish into the bargain. The camps, I understand, were primitive and there was a lot of hardship. Then the Arandora Star was sunk, with many lives lost. So, you see, not everybody is so grateful.

Anne Pisker, London SW15


Sir – Re Ernest Kolman’s letter (April), some years ago a journalist of the Shofar (Menorah Congregation) contacted me for a brief interview. When I mentioned I had visited Germany several times in the not-so-distant past, she banged her fists on the table condemning this. When she left me, she got into a German BMW.

A. Jonas, Macclesfield


Sir – In the last paragraph of his article in the May edition, Victor Ross states that if some claimants to the Austrian General Settlement Fund die, the remaining claimants would benefit. This is simply not the case as these claims are heritable and would pass to another family member.

Ralf Wachtel, Potters Bar, Herts


Sir - The most elegant piece, ‘A restoration comedy’ (should surely have been ‘tragedy’), in the May issue showed convincingly what an illiterate, humourless bunch of buffoons the Viennese Gestapo were. Who in their right mind would have used Faust, Part II as lavatory paper when Goetz von Berlichingen would have been so much more appropriate, to the point and within their intellectual grasp. The immortal words in that play were surely the only sentence of any play they ever used - without realising it, of course.


Frank Bright, Ipswich


Sir - Still on the subject of Victor Ross’s article in the April issue, Hungarian Jews must be champions at ‘grabbing’ Nobel Prizes. Out of 12 ‘grabbed’ by Hungarians, possibly one was ‘grabbed’ by a non-Jew - the rest, I am afraid, were all awarded to Jews!

Janos Fisher, Bushey Heath