Letters to the Editor (February 7, 2011)

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Not necessarily Orientalism

In response to "Egypt deserves democracy too," Feb. 2"

The comparison that Anshel Pfeffer makes between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, apropos of the possibility that they will join in a new government there, and the "religious fundamentalists" in Israel, lacks an understanding of the political reality in Egypt.

In contrast to the religious parties that take part in the government in Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood has never accepted the rules of the game of democracy, and first and foremost recognition of the sovereignty of the elected parliament and its being the source of authority for legislation. On the contrary, they constantly reiterate that it is untenable to think that laws that were legislated by human beings could be preferable to laws that appear in the holy scripts.

The Muslim Brotherhood likewise has never declared its readiness to accept the principle of changes of government, or alternately to recognize the equal status of women, including both their right to vote and to be elected. In addition, they do not accept the principle of pluralism of thought that is respected in Western countries, and they reject outright any criticism of their prophet or his writings.

It is clear to all that what appears to be their support for free elections is nothing but a means to get hold of power and impose Muslim religious laws on the entire society.

One does not have to be suffering from Orientalism in order to discern that the slogans being bandied about by the Muslim Brotherhood in favor of democracy are hollow, and that there is a gigantic chasm between their worldview and the principles of democracy.

David Govrin

Mevasseret Tzion

Memories of Iran

In response to "Arab revolution and the West's decline," Feb. 3

My last visit to Iran (which I left on the penultimate El Al flight from Tehran ) was in 1978 during the mass demonstrations by Ayatollah Khomeini's supporters and on the eve of the Shah's ouster. I had gone there in the framework of advising the army about ways of locating water sources in development sites. I was accompanied on my travels by an Iranian colonel.

I arrived in Iran at a time when the ferment against the Shah's regime had just begun to break out publicly. The first information I received was that it was dangerous for foreigners, and especially for Israelis, to wander around in the bazaars. That was because Muammar Gaddafi had invested enormous sums in funding pockets of revolt and had distributed thousands of recordings with Khomeini's sermons in the bazaars.

As the disturbances grew worse, officials of the Israeli embassy advised me to leave. We set off in a military vehicle as the radio was reporting that there had been protests throughout Iran's towns and clashes between the army and demonstrators in the bazaars.

The colonel who was accompanying me reacted to these reports with the words: "If they would give us a free hand, we would end the revolt like we did in 1963. But the Americans and their naive president, Jimmy Carter, don't understand that we are facing a revolution and they have tied our hands. They are convinced that these are like student demonstrations in America."

When I asked the colonel about the relationship between the Iranian officers and the American military delegation, he replied that the problem with the Americans was that they were cut off from what was happening in the field because in Iran too they lived in America. It was not just that the American military advisers lived in separate camps, he said, but their families also were closed off in a quarter where the style of life was American.

When we arrived in Tehran, he took me through the military airport. Helicopters belonging to the Iranian army, a gift from the Americans, were lined up there. The colonel pointed to the hundreds of helicopters and said: "The Americans gave us these planes but in the name of democracy, they have tied our hands now that we want to use them against the ayatollahs of Khomeini. They have yet to understand what democracy is in the ayatollahs' style."

By chance I was also an observer from a distance when there was the botched attempt to free those being held captive in the American embassy in Tehran, during the Carter regime. That day, the American ambassador was being hosted at the center for desert studies in Sde Boker.

While he was meeting with members of the center's council, his assistant came into the room and whispered something to him. The ambassador apologized and hastened to leave. I left after him and saw him standing next to his car and speaking on a radio-telephone.

When he finished, he apologized to us and said he had to rush back to the embassy immediately because something had happened that we would hear about on the news.

And indeed we heard about the mishap that occurred to one of the helicopters that had been dispatched, as a result of which the mission to free the captives was called off. I can guess what my friend the Iranian colonel would have said about that nation, one of the strongest in the world, that calls off a mission to free hostages because of a mishap like that.

Prof. (Emeritus ) Arye S. Isser

Jerusalem

Who is the false prophet?

In response to "The return of the false messiahs of peace," Jan 28

Israel Harel tries to compare all those who think that it is feasible and necessary to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution, to the messianic branch of the Chabad movement.

He was particularly annoyed with the Geneva Initiative which, in the wake of the leaks of the documents about the negotiations, issued a call to take advantage of the opportunity and the present Palestinian partner to arrive at an agreement.

Is someone who thinks that it is possible to continue with the existing situation of binational life and the rule over another nation less naive and less messianic than those who call for a change in this situation?

The public must decide who is speaking the truth and who is a false prophet - those who offer a pragmatic solution that is acceptable to the entire world and most of the public on both sides, or those who are not prepared to pay the price of a compromise and are looking for excuses on which to hang their attachment to messianic ideas that are cut off from reality.

Gili Harpaz

Spokesperson for the Geneva Initiative

Gambling - beware of addiction!

In response to: "Stop encouraging gambling" (from Hebrew version of Haaretz ), Jan. 28

We wish to add some comments to the letter to the editor by Amos Cohen. Since it is clear that an addiction to gambling can be no less serious than an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it would be appropriate to oblige everyone who publishes advertisements that encourage gambling (Mifal Hapayis, Lotto, Toto and private bodies ) to add a warning in capital letters in which they state that participating in gambling is likely to turn into a dangerous addiction.

We are hoping there will be Knesset members who will promote this initiative for the good of the health of the individual and the community.

Leah and Hemi Oron

Tel Aviv

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