Letters to the Editor (October 26, 2011)
Is it 'Israel-bashing' to oppose freeing terrorists?
In response to "The new U.S. Zionist: Israel-bashing made kosher," October 23
Bradley Burston is hyperbolic and inconsistent when he contends that the Zionist Organization of America and others who criticized the freeing of hundreds terrorists in exchange for Corporal Gilad Shalit are “Israel-bashing”). When extremist, leftwing organizations with whom Burston concurs, like J Street and Jewish Voices for Peace, have expressed criticism of Israeli policies, Burston has praised them, not waxed indignant about “Israel-bashing.”
Burston slams us for claiming that “freeing terrorists causes additional murders of Israeli civilians,” but didn’t bother to refute our claim. But then he can’t. As we originally noted, the Almagor Terrorist Victims Association disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the previous five years had been killed by freed terrorists.
Is it “Israel-bashing” to oppose freeing terrorists because the evidence shows that innocent Israelis have been murdered in large numbers by them?
In supporting the government’s decision to free terrorists, Burston notes that Mr. Netanyahu “lost a brother in a gun battle with ruthless kidnappers of Israelis” - but Burston seems to have forgotten why. Yonatan Netanyahu died rescuing hostages at Entebbe because Israel rightly refused to free jailed terrorists as the kidnappers demanded. The then-Rabin government understood that to do so would result in even more kidnappings and an escalation of demands - precisely what has occurred since its policy was subsequently discarded.
Burston criticizes us for arguing that “The appeals to put ourselves in the shoes of the families of the kidnapped are deeply moving and understandable, but cannot be the basis for our decisions.” But he omits to inform his readers of the reason we provided - “the most important consideration must be preventing the loss of further innocent lives to terror.” Does Burston disagree and, if so, why?
Morton A. Klein
Zionist Organization of America
4 East 34th Street
New York, NY, 10016
We did have an emotional collapse
In response to "The first morning," October 19
As a pensioner living a simple life here, reading Ari Shavit's commentary was disappointing. "We went crazy" and experienced a "loss of judgment and the loss of our senses."
I did not attend the rallies and marches on behalf of Gilad Shalit or visit the protest tent, but I watched it all with great pride. These events made me feel once again that "it's worth being here": the reinforcement we are constantly searching for lest we become apathetic, the desire to show concern for any personal anguish caused by the political situation. This is what brought Gilad Shalit home.
"We did not focus cameras on every bereaved father and every bereaved mother," writes Shavit. Do we not recognize the names and faces of the casualties? We see a photo of every fallen soldier/victim in the newspaper, read about his life and personality, accompany his family at the funeral, and hear (albeit in our living rooms ) their anguished shouts on the news broadcasts.
Every Memorial Day we teach our children about the heroism of the fallen soldiers and the names etched on the tombstones. We watch interviews and listen to their stories. We feel their pain. We escort every bereaved family. We shed tears - and that includes the writers and interviewers - while listening to each individual story.
I have been here for 60 years, am aware of all the pain, and was present when each young man packed his knapsack and went off to war. We had an emotional collapse in the face of a young life that was nipped in the bud.
Ari Shavit describes the support for the Shalit deal bluntly, using phrases such as "insanity," "hysteria," "loss of judgment," "loss of senses" and a step "without wisdom, without morality and without mature responsibility."
A country whose fate it is (at least while it runs its policy according to right-wing principles ) to live by the sword and send its sons to the battlefield (an obligation that does not exist in countries like the United States, Britain and Australia, which Shavit would like us to resemble ) - such a country that decides after difficult deliberations to pay a steep price to free a soldier lacks wisdom, morality and responsibility, according to Shavit.
The deal was arranged only because there was no other option; there was no intelligence on Shalit's location and there was no chance to rescue him. Shavit urges the country to move ahead to implement the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee and determine "a reasonable price" for ransoming captives. If such a price list is set, it will be the end and not the beginning of solidarity and mutual responsibility. It will also lead to a sharp decline in our motivation to serve the country.
Ari Shavit is worried about replacing the "Yoni ethos" with the "Gilad ethos." It's true that Yoni Netanyahu and the thousands of others who fell in Israel's wars have loving and anguished families. But Shavit complains: "We did not emotionally collapse in the face of the young lives that were lost." Thanks to the Yoni ethos, Shavit believes, we survived here and "only thanks to that are we able to live an almost normal life here."
Is that so? Without detracting from the vitality of the Yoni ethos, what about the heavy cost it entails? Denial, lack of hope and obtuseness are the alternative to emotional collapse. What costs are paid by a nation that lives by its sword and sends generations of its children off to war?
An entire country warmly and gently embraced Gilad Shalit and his parents. It's possible we have an opening here for a new approach that includes nurturing not only the fearless fighter but also the tender and vulnerable.
We are all a little bit Gilad, Noam and Aviva. We all want to live and not necessarily be heroes.
Perhaps the Gilad ethos, like the social protest, nurtures the individual in the face of the erosive national authority. The Yoni ethos evolved from intense efforts to persuade us of the justness of our path. Today we are beginning to realize that most of our leaders did not do everything to build a future of peace for us. We can only hope that the Gilad ethos will develop and prompt the people to at last demand that their leaders end their obtuseness and haughtiness and truly leave no stone unturned to prevent the next war.
In response to "He isn't a leader yet," October 21
I would like to suggest to Yoel Marcus another possible response from Benjamin Netanyahu to the question "What have you done for the country?"
It would go something like this: "When I was finance minister in the Sharon government, when the economy faced an insolvency crisis within a month or so, similar to the one in Argentina at the time, when the Histadrut's collapsing pension funds verged on bankruptcy (similar to the construction workers' insurance fund ) amid a deficit ... that could have brought hundreds of thousands of families to the brink of hunger and shortages, I worked determinedly to save the country and its citizens from a financial holocaust."
Long live the ratings
Clearly Tzipi Livni's comments are unpopular, and clearly she could not state them right after the Shalit deal was reached. But it's possible her comments are right. No one can predict the impact of the Shalit deal on Israel, its national strength, security and the safety of its citizens.
We are all glad that Gilad Shalit returned home and his parents, who launched a huge worldwide campaign to get the Israeli government to agree to the deal, acted properly as far as they are concerned. There has never been such a campaign.
But Israel today is a country of ratings, only ratings. MK Shelly Yachimovich understands this and so she reacted the way she did to Livni's comments. The hell with the state, the hell with the future, long live the ratings. Livni should be thanked for her courage and frankness - rare things nowadays.
Dr. Ezra Saar
Crossing a red line
With all the tolerance that we - most Jews - show toward Israeli Arabs, the protest by Israeli Arabs outside Hadarim Prison and the shouts heard there crossed a red line. Demonstrating and calling for the abduction of soldiers? As a citizen willing to achieve peace and concede a lot for it, I think a sharp response from the police and legal system is called for.