Letters to the Editor
Coexistence activities don’t work
In response to “Peace activists are sick of talking about soccer,” April 25
The article presents a creative but misleading interpretation of coexistence events between Israelis and Palestinians. Such well-intentioned activities have been taking place for decades, funded generously by government and foundation officials who believe that they are contributing to mutual understanding, and movement toward peace. However, after examining the evidence in detail, my research shows that most such programs here and in other areas of intense identity conflicts around the world have very little impact, often because participants on one or both sides use such events as another front in the ongoing conflict.
The Bereaved Families Forum, (also known as the Parents Circle-Families Forum), a group cited in the article, is another example of the contrast between hope and reality. This group’s events consistently reflect the Palestinian victimization narrative, and the Israeli participants provoke angry reactions from bereaved families who do not share this ideology. The Palestinians involved in these activities are aware of this division, and seek to expand their gains in the political conflict, as shown in their statements quoted in this article. To have positive and lasting impacts, people-to-people interactions require entirely different frameworks.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg
Bar Ilan University & President, NGO Monitor
A journalist’s opinion
In response to: “Broadcasting authority accused of censoring personal opinions,” April 22
The Broadcasting Authority directors are correct to bar programs from presenting personal opinions. It seems that the opponents of this decision who claim it is a form of censorship are confusing two important principles: freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Freedom of the press guarantees the public a press that will present it with the whole truth and nothing but the truth, without fear of a given body. In this context, the press must also expose the public, in a fair and balanced manner, to the different opinions on issues at the heart of the public agenda. But it is doubtful whether freedom of the press necessarily guarantees freedom for every journalist to voice his personal opinion anywhere. Although every journalist is granted freedom of speech just like any other citizen, a well-known journalist does not have any advantage over an unknown citizen, in that respect. Moreover, it is doubtful that the free press is necessarily the appropriate platform for every journalist, especially when it is the Broadcasting Authority, which is a government authority financed by the public and ultimately controlled by the government.
When someone listens to a certain radio station, he does so knowing that he is exposing himself to a station with a certain tendency, and perhaps also with a specific political or social objective. If the station’s message is not to his liking, he can choose not to tune in, and in so doing also avoid supporting it financially.
However, the Broadcasting Authority, which every citizen must support, must be free of political slants. This is not to say that no political views should be voiced, but merely to clarify that the news presenters should be seen by the public as objective and neutral when it comes to the issues about which they are informing the public.
It is difficult for me to rely on the objectivity of a report presented by a program host who a few minutes earlier voiced his personal opinion.
Dr. Daniel Gottlieb
Our right to the land
In response to “What Begin and Gantz understand,” April 23
Yehuda Ben Meir notes in his article that even those who favor the “two states for two peoples” option do so only out of a desire to head off the prospect of a binational state. He writes that they too are convinced that the Jewish people have a national right to the Land of Israel, and that this approach has broad and deep support around the world. According to him, this is the case provided that “Israel respects the personal and civil rights of the Palestinians.” In other words, in Ben Meir’s view, the Jews have national rights to this land, whereas the Palestinians have no such rights, but should still be treated respectfully.
The view that we have a national right to the land and the Palestinians do not has become entrenched among vast swaths of the Israeli public and it is a threat to peace. Our national rights to the land were determined by those who believe it stems from a divine command or from the bequest of our forefathers. As far as a divine command, this is a religious approach and criticizing those who believe in it is therefore pointless. But the approach based on a bequest is not necessarily that of religious people and therefore allows for review and discussion. It is an approach that lacks self-integrity and is dangerous. Our right to the land stems from our settling in it, just as the Palestinians have such a right by virtue of their presence on the land. Therefore, advocates of our “national right” as opposed to “the Palestinians’ personal rights” ignore the reality of the presence of two peoples here; and in so doing, they create the approach that endangers the possibility of achieving a peace agreement between the parties.
Who deserves a good word?
In response to “Words that can’t be retracted,” April 20
Tom Segev, in an effort to discredit Abba Ahimeir for including Hitler in a list of “glorious names,” writes, “Anyone who was following the political developments, as Ahimeir did, by 1933 would not have needed even ‘a few days’ to know that Hitler was not worthy of a single good word.” If that is the case, this statement should apply to at least the same degree to Zionist leaders whom Segev surely defines as more important and central than Ahimeir; for example, David Ben-Gurion, Berl Katznelson, Chaim Weizmann and dozens of others Zionist movement leaders. And if they knew that Hitler was not worthy of single good word, why didn’t they follow Ahimeir and Ze’ev Jabotinsky after 1933 and fight a battle to the bitter end against Nazi Germany, as Jabotinsky and Ahimeir’s movement did? And why didn’t they adopt their ‘catastrophic Zionist’ policy, and why did they oppose Jabotinsky’s alliance policy. Even today, there are those who argue that these leaders could not have foreseen the Holocaust. Who among the Zionists would have warned against this and who would not have?