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Sex harassment is irrelevant to occupation

In response to "Close encounters of the unwanted kind," March 19 It is naive to ask why sexual harassment, which usually does not merit media coverage under normal conditions, does get covered when the women being harassed are Israeli left-wing activists. It's because of the comic irony: Israeli women help Arabs, and Arabs harass them - that's the subtext.

The reason such a coarse subtext is of interest is that the battle against the occupation relies on moralistic sentimentality that is fueled by anecdotes about the cruelty of the occupation and the poor Arab victims. But relying on anecdotes alone justifies the counterargument invoking acts of cruelty perpetrated by Arabs, whereby the Arabs may be unfortunate, but they deserve it.

Similarly, no matter how nice the settlers may be, that is of no political or ethical value, because whether or not the settlers are nice people is not the question. The only important thing is the crime involved in the act of settlement.

In the same way, the attitude of the Palestinians toward women, whether as individuals or as a society, is not related to the question of the occupation.

I don't have to admire the Palestinians, collectively or individually, to support the end of Israeli rule over them.

Even if we had an "enlightened" occupation that didn't involve uprooting trees, stealing land or settlements, it is still objectionable for one people to rule over another. The occupation simply has to end.

Oded Even Or

Tel Aviv

Trust teachers, not matriculation exams

In response to "The best education minister in the world," March 23

Nehemia Shtrasler is concerned about the state of education and the anticipated further reduction in the number of matriculation exams, to the point of requiring three out of the seven compulsory exams. We can understand his fear of the populist transformation that is liable to take place, instead of the profound change that is needed.

Indeed, two groups - the Rothschild Encampment Education Committee and E for Education - were formed during the summer's social protests, with the aim of bringing about a fundamental change in the Israeli school system, in part by changing the system of matriculation exams.

The matriculation exams emphasize memorization over understanding. Even those who are in favor of the exams, claiming that they offer equal access to higher education and the job market, are aware that only 45 percent of high school graduates complete 12 years of study with full matriculation status.

The educators who are members of these groups constitute a social movement for changing education. They are interested in working harder. Instead of putting time into preparing students for the matriculation exams, they want to invest the same time in teaching research skills, helping their students develop intellectual curiosity and examine their value system. They seek an education system that gives rise to thinking, critical people, who ask questions in addition to acquiring knowledge.

The time has come to learn how to use knowledge, to be aware of its sources, and to learn how to ascertain to whom it is and is not accessible. I encounter the products of the school system at the institutions of higher education where I teach. I believe in their intellectual abilities, but not in their thinking skills, which nobody bothered to develop.

These teachers are not demanding fewer hours or larger salaries, but are requesting: Have confidence in us, let us work intelligently and use our work hours wisely. Let us produce thinking, creative, knowledgeable and critical graduates, who themselves create knowledge.

Gila Amitay

Lecturer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

and Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley

Israel hasn't learned from Goldstone inquiry

In response to "Israel cuts contact with UN rights council to protest probe," March 27

The Foreign Ministry has apparently learned nothing from the Goldstone Commission, which showed that Israel's refusal to cooperate with the UN inquiry into Operation Cast Lead meant that only the Gazan side was heard. Now it is adopting the same ostrich method in connection with the investigative committee for the settlements. Again Israel will let the other side's opinions take center stage.

Then again, maybe there really is nothing to be said in defense of actions such as expelling people from their land, uprooting olive orchards or violently attacking the local population, as settlers have done.

This silence before a committee investigating inappropriate conduct that contravenes international law will be considered by the world to be an admission of guilt.

Giora Amir

Kfar Sava

The myth of the red notebook

In response to "Who needs lobbyists?" March 28

Avirama Golan asks in her article: "Do you remember the red notebook without which there was no chance of getting work?" But while this idea of the red notebook is repeated occasionally, in my experience it is not correct.

I worked in the Finance Ministry between 1956 and 1965, which were the days of Mapai rule. During this period I was appointed the deputy income tax commissioner and the deputy in charge of state revenues. Nobody ever asked me about my political views.

Had my superiors wanted to check, they would have discovered that I didn't have a "red notebook." And had they asked me, I would have replied that I wasn't a member of any party.

But when then-Finance Minister Yigal Cohen-Orgad, a Likud member, invited me in 1983 to be the director general of the ministry, he asked me whether I was a Zionist.

Emanuel Sharon

Mevasseret Zion

Likud, where are your women and Mizrahim?

Kadima's decision to appoint a Mizrahi politician (Shaul Mofaz ) as chairman, as well as the fact that he is replacing a woman (Tzipi Livni ), is no small thing.

The last Labor Party primary also gave voters a choice between a woman (Shelly Yacimovich, the 13th person and second woman to lead the party ) and the second Mizrahi politician to lead the party (Amir Peretz ). Like Labor, Meretz is also currently headed by a woman (Zahava Gal-On, the second woman to lead the party ).

On the other hand, Likud - the main ruling party in Israel since 1977 - has had only four leaders to date, and all have been secular Ashkenazi men: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the case even though most Likud voters are Mizrahi and religiously traditional, and at least half are women. Apparently, Likud voters want conservatism, stability and tradition, embodied in a leader they consider to be strong, instead of a more accurate reflection of the demographic and ideological (especially when it comes to social and economic issues ) composition of their party.

This is another sad reminder of the fact that in Israel, huge swaths of the public - women, Mizrahim and Arabs - are not truly represented, as they should be in a democracy.

Ido Erez

Kfar Sava