The United States' sad intransigence at the United Nations
The U.S. decision December 19 to obstruct joint UN Security Council condemnation of Israel's punitive acceleration of settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem serves only those opposed to a negotiated resolution of the conflict. By ignoring its long-standing policy identifying settlement construction as an obstacle to peace, America substantiated claims that it wears blinders when it comes to criticism of Israel at the world body.
It vindicated those, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who say the Obama administration can easily be led to oppose international action to restart genuine peace talks. Finally, by showing its disdain for international consensus-building on this issue, the United States encourages those obstructing joint action on other important issues for the United States - like meaningful international intervention in Syria. Why should Russia or China shrink from blocking Security Council action on Syria when the United States so blithely trips them up on Palestine?
It was ironic that Israel's UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, cited the council's lack of action on Syria in criticizing the 14 other council members for their statements urging a reversal of Israel's new push for settlement building. Prosor, as reported by Haaretz on December 20, said he was angered that Security Council members ignored the Syrian air force's bombing of a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus December 16 and 18 and instead "decided to discuss plans for Jewish homes in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people."
Earlier, Prosor had said Security Council concern over the moribund peace process was misdirected - it was not settlements that present an obstacle to meaningful talks, but "the Palestinian quest for the so-called right of return and refusal to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people." Israel's UN representative surely knows that it is mainly Russia's intransigence that prevents the Security Council from taking steps that might relieve suffering in the Yarmouk camp and elsewhere in Syria.
Sadly, U.S. intransigence on the council when it comes to criticizing Israel reassures the opponents of peace that they will not soon be required to discuss the plight of Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere - or any other core issue between Israelis and Palestinians.
In response to "Behind Mona Lisa's smile"
The members of The Mona Lisa Foundation of Switzerland would like to respond to the article by Sefy Hendler on November 22nd. We come from many walks of life, including as we do, a former world chessmaster, as well as art experts.
It seems that Martin Kemp's Emeritus Professor status at Oxford university adds a veneer of infallibility to all his utterances. Alas, such infallibility is not always so, and his declarations in respect of the Isleworth/Earlier Mona Lisa may have overstepped the mark for a student of the history of art into the realms of art connoisseurship, arguably quite a different discipline.
It is also surprising that 100 years' worth of examination of the credentials of the 'Isleworth' Mona Lisa as a signature work by Leonardo da Vinci could have been completely ignored.
The painting had been submitted to expert analysis, using the latest techniques available to Science and Technology. On the signature levels of composition, materials and technique, no provable objection of the painting has emerged!
"A rigid, lifeless copy..." is a travesty of the beauty, translucent depth and youthful warmth evidenced by this beautiful painting. In its recent exhibitions in Japan, before the foundations's findings became known, the portrait elicited huge numbers of admirers, many of whom had originally approached the painting with some scepticism, before viewing it. Mr. Hendler might point out to Mr Kemp that a painting is, after all, painted to be seen, something that he has for some reason declined to do in this case. Is that an admirable stance for a so-called expert on a particular painting? It is after all, a painting by an artist well known for producing more than one version of his works?
We are privileged to present the case for the 'Isleworth' Mona Lisa: our website is available at www.monalisa.org. This includes the findings of unrefutable scientific tests proving that the Isleworth/Earlier Mona Lisa portrait must have been painted by the same hand as the Louvre version. One can also obtain our 'sumptuous' 320-page book at Amazon.
We assert that the masterpiece in the Louvre is referred to by Leonardo during a visit by, and display of the painting to, Antonio de Beatis in 1517, two years before the death of Leonardo: "...at the instance of Giuliano de' Medici..." On the other hand, Giorgio Vasari ascribes the commission of the earlier Mona Lisa to Francesco del Giocondo, the date backed by the Heidelberg Document as being c.1503.The Mona Lisa Foundation explains how these two separate commissions came about, and confirms why the 'Isleworth' Mona Lisa is that earlier version mentioned by Vasari.
We are sure that many serious scholars will want to follow this extraordinary story of a painting that has languished too long, mostly due to the past prejudices of certain vested interests of the art world!
Deric B. Wood
Meretz is clearly the answer
In response to "Senseless elections," December 20
In his article, Ari Shavit supplies the solution to the issue he raised about voters' awareness on the most vital issues. He states that "apart from Tzipi Livni and Zahava Gal-On, nobody talks about [where Israel is headed]. Apart from Hatnuah and Meretz, nobody cries out."
The answer is clearly to vote for Gal-On and Meretz or Tzipi Livni and Hatnuah. It is already clear, however, that Livni and Hatnuah will join the coalition. Logic follows that if we want to show our dissatisfaction and frustration with the government that continuously jeopardizes any chance to remain democratic or to bring about peace or social change, we need to vote for Meretz.
If every one of us who is dissatisfied and appalled by the present government would vote for Meretz, we could effect a change in the voting outcome that might shock the powers that be. A large voter turnout for Meretz could become a referendum for a change in direction. It need not be a fantasy to think about such a possibility.
Marcia Greenman Lebeau
Yacimovich is responsible for the sagging left
Many people say the current Israeli government is bad and should end its term. Many others say the opposite. There is nothing like an election in a democratic country to solve this question.
A huge majority of the members and supporters of the Labor Party identify with the first opinion; they and their leaders feel that the party's role is to give Israel's electorate an alternative to the current government. Only presenting such an alternative, even at the price of sitting in the opposition, will give the voter a clear choice between continuing with the current government and replacing it.
But the Labor Party's leadership and its chairwoman do not believe in their ability to bring about a revolution: Shelly Yacimovich refrains from challenging the government's diplomatic-security message and from criticizing its leader; in this way she keeps the option of joining the Netanyahu-Lieberman government "under certain conditions" after the election.
It was the duty of former Labor MK Amir Peretz to fight for his path, which is the right one in this case, within his party. But the responsibility for this development and for the loss of the chance to replace the right-wing government lies with Yacimovich.
Abandoning our parents to life without dignity
In response to "Israeli life expectancy tops 80 years," December 7
My father has been living in a nursing home for the past year and a quarter. Until a week ago, at the table opposite him sat a patient I'll call Haim. From the day we arrived, and I don't know for how long before that, Haim could not function at all and lacked interest in anything around him. His appearance cried out constant suffering.
Along with that, Haim firmly refused to eat, and the staff of caregivers (for whom I have only good words ) would force-feed him. I don't know if the force-feeding was in accordance with instructions from Haim's family, a legal order or some other authority. In any case, Haim was fed three times a day, while he resisted, shouted and cried.
If those years, which according to the article and our statistics are included in the summary of a person's life expectancy, cause any of us to pat himself on the back with pride, then all I can say to that person is that we are abandoning our parents to a life without dignity and mercy.
The poverty line and the Green Line
In response to "Report: More than a third of Israel's children are poor"
I would like to ask: Did the report on poverty levels among Israel's children separately check poverty levels among the children of settlers (not including ultra-Orthodox )?
After all, the government admitted that it is quietly sending a lot of money to the settlers. Perhaps part of this money could solve the problem of poverty in Israel? Perhaps it would be desirable to have the funds distributed more equitably? And why isn't Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich asking this question and raising it for discussion?
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