Letters to the Editor

Suppressed the truth about Jewish suffering

Rachel Shabis op-ed (The Jewish refugee question: an obnoxious form of diplomacy - October 2) is built on a false premise: her assertion that the Israeli government is engaged in obnoxious diplomacy to offset Palestinian and Jewish refugee claims. In fact no claims would go through the Israeli government, but would be dealt with as part of an international fund, as proposed by President Clinton in 2000.

Shabi alleges that Jews returning to their homeland cannot be refugees: it has been well established that one can respond to both push and pull factors, and be both a refugee and a Zionist. And what of the rights of the 285,000 Jews who fled Arab countries for the West? Are they classifiable as neither Zionists nor refugees?

'Zionist emissaries', she argues, caused the exodus when 'most Jews preferred to engage in home-grown nationalist movements'. This is simply not true. Iraqi Jews became Zionists overnight following devastating pogroms such as the 1941 Farhud - in which almost 200 Jews were slaughtered like sheep - because the underground offered them training in self-defence. Jews also turned to Communism because Arab nationalism marginalised and excluded non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Today, none but six Jews are left in Iraq. Shabi is silent about an Arab antisemitism which has scapegoated Jews as Jews, and driven a 2,600- year-old community to extinction.

Ironically, while flaunting her credentials as the daughter of Iraqi Jews, Rachel Shabi has allowed herself to be used as a Mizrahi fellow-traveller for a post-Zionist leftism that is only interested in hearing about discrimination if the Israeli establishment could be blamed for it. For years the Ashkenazi-dominated Left have suppressed the truth about Jewish suffering as a result of Arab and Muslim antisemitism lest it diminish the (politically-correct) Palestinian cause.

To be perfectly blunt - denigrating the rights of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews to memory, recognition and redress is racism. Now that the Israeli government has let the genie out, Jews who suffered in Arab countries will not allow it to be forced back inside the bottle.

Lyn Julius

Co-founder, Harif - UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa info@harif.org

There was no "Jewish Nakba" 

As a native of Alexandria, born in 1939, I can personally attest to the fact that the situation of the Jews of Egypt was excellent. The families of my mother and father, who had settled there in the early 1920s, were saved from the Holocaust thanks to Egypt.

We lived in the European quarter, which was home to Greeks, Italians, French, English and many others. I went to the French school, and we spoke French at home. I never knew Arabic. Even after the establishment of the State of Israel, we never felt any hostility towards the Jews. We left Egypt in the 1950s because of some particular circumstances. There was no expulsion. We left with all of our belongings.

Most Egyptian Jews left the country in the early 1950s. They did not do so out of necessity but out of choice. Their property was not stolen. The educated and rich chose for the most part not to immigrate to Israel but rather to settle elsewhere. Similarly, the Jews of the Maghreb mostly left in the early 1950s. The poor came to Israel whereas the rich and educated chose to settle in France. They, too, were not looted of their property and did not suffer pogroms. The same was true in Iraq.

I therefore fail to understand the pogroms of which the media report now. Where? What property was stolen? There was no "Jewish Nakba" in the Arab countries. The Zionist movement operated emissaries who urged the young to come to Israel. My brother was influenced by them and dragged the rest of our family here. We were neither Zionist nor religious. We were considered secular Jews, completely assimilated.

After leaving Egypt, we stayed in a camp in Marseille, France. There we met many Jews from various Arab countries. No one ever claimed to have been harmed or to have had property stolen or confiscated. Why did they leave? It's obvious that the Zionist emissaries had an impact, and among those who left were also traditional Jews for whom living in a Jewish country was in line with their religious desires. It was also obvious to all that the establishment of a Jewish state and the hostility between it and the Arab countries were liable to adversely affect the Jews living there.

Dr. Joseph Rosenfeld

Bnei Brak

The quality and importance of Haaretz

We are experiencing a time fraught with dangers to print journalism. It seems as if the era of the printing press is over and that soon printed newspapers will be a thing of the past. I am very concerned about this development because the multiplicity of voices in print journalism is critical for an open, free and developing society. Haaretz, despite its basic stance - or perhaps because of it - is a platform for such diversity. In addition to the political pieces it publishes, Haaretz also fulfills an important function in writing about science, literature, history and society. I have been a faithful reader of both Haaretz and The New York Times for many years, and in my opinion Haaretz is every bit as good as the prestigious American paper.

Haaretz must continue to appear for the good of us all.

Prof. Miriam Ben-Peretz

University of Haifa

Show your cards, news media

At a time when there is talk of early elections in Israel, it would only be right for Israeli media to adopt the practice of The New York Times. This important and influential newspaper set a policy of total transparency regarding its political stances, without any obfuscation or concealment. Before every presidential election, the editorial board would meet, discuss and decide which of the candidates to support, and this decision would be published in an editorial. The voters and readers thus knew whom the paper was supporting. This is an example of journalistic transparency and honesty, sadly lacking in the Israeli media.

Matti Dor

Former board member of second channel authority and Channel 1 and Channel 2 boards

Ramat Efal

How to make crosswalks safe for pedestrians

It is possible to prevent accidents at crosswalks. There is a law. The problem is that the police and traffic inspectors do not enforce it. Vehicles park and stop within 12 meters of crosswalks, even though the law prohibits this. The rationale for the ban is to allow pedestrians to see if traffic is coming as well as allow drivers to see if pedestrians are preparing to cross. When the law is not enforced, pedestrians have to walk past the vehicle hiding traffic to see if the road is clear, and sometimes it's too late. Drivers, too, have to be maximally alert, and they aren't always so.

Thus, the required action is absolutely clear: towing any vehicles parked in prohibited areas.

Another problem is that vehicles pass on the right in front of the crosswalk. The law forbids this too, lest the driver on the left intends to allow pedestrians to cross the road. This law is likewise not enforced.

Rumble strips and road bumps should be installed in front of crosswalks; alternately, road bumps can be integrated into the crosswalk itself. This would result in reasonable drivers approaching the road bump/crosswalk with their foot already on the brakes because the crosswalk would be more prominent and visible from a greater distance.

Similarly, drivers who harm pedestrians at a crosswalk should have their license revoked on the spot and should have to take driver's education - driving lessons, classroom education and official exams - all over again before getting their licenses back. Vehicles involved in traffic accidents in crosswalks should be impounded until all lawsuits and legal proceedings are completed.

Avraham (Beki ) Dekel

Former driving instructor, teacher of driving examiners, lecturer on proper driving

Tel Aviv