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- Arts + Ents
Tuesday 4 December 2007
Telling the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism
Sir: Reading Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's offering this morning ("The curious role of Labour Friends of Israel", 3 December), I wonder if she is aware of how offensive a phrase like "the wrath of Moses" might appear?
For someone who prefaces all of her anti-Zionist ramblings with a confident declaration that she will be accused of anti-semitism for criticising Israel, she has a bad habit of then inviting such accusations by dropping a casually insulting comment such as the above. Is she perhaps trying to provoke the accusation of anti-semitism, in order to show that , apart from her much-referred-to "Jewish friends", other Jews cannot tell the difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism?
Those of us that ever read Ms Alibhai-Brown's column are fully aware of her anti-Israel sentiment. Such an insulting and potentially inflammatory phrase as she used is not needed, and it does neither her nor your newspaper any credit to publish it. Free speech is a privilege, and is not sufficiently valued in this country: abuse it, and everyone suffers.
Sir: Thank you to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She is a brave woman. It is disturbing to think that our politicians are working for the benefit of a foreign country, and explains a lot about our Middle East policy.
This is clearly not just about the Labour Party, and should be the beginning of questions about the influence of foreign lobbying groups in the Conservative Party too. If we want to trust our politicians in future, we may have to accept that the only way forward is by public funding of political parties.
We cannot afford a failure at Bali
Sir: You ask what are the chances that Bali will make a difference (leading article, 3 December). As people from developing countries who are attending the UN talks, and whose work is with some of the poorest people on the planet, who suffer floods, droughts and other weather-related disasters, we say that Bali must work.
The poor farmers we work with do not know the phrase "climate change". But they do tell us they do not know when to plant crops to feed their families because they do not know when the rains will come. And they tell us that floods are becoming more frequent and lasting longer. And, as a result, some of them are becoming poorer. While rich countries talk about climate change in the future, we are living with it every day of the year.
A global problem such as climate change can be solved only by a global solution and if that means having to get 190 countries to agree, then it must be done, however slow, however difficult, however painful. The poorest people with whom we work supported by Tearfund in agriculture, building livelihoods, and preparing for inevitable disaster, have done nothing to contribute to climate change. They deserve a historic result in Bali.
The announcement by Australia that it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol is an immense encouragement to developing countries. It breeds hope for much deeper emissions cuts and braver decisions to help poor communities adapt to climate change.
Programme Manager, CRWRC, Aceh, IndonesiaRanto SibaraniExecutive Secretary, Kotib, Aceh-Nias, IndonesiaRaju Pandit ChhetriAdvocacy Officer, UMN, NepalLampita SiregarFinance Director, Kali, Medan, Indonesia
Sir: John Stewart is right to challenge Dominic Lawson's view that fighting climate change and remaining economically competitive are incompatible objectives (letter, 28 November).
Currently, the industrialised nations rely heavily upon cheap and abundant oil. We are now witnessing burgeoning world demand coupled with declining production levels. Consequently, there is only one direction that the price of oil is heading: up fast.
It is likely, therefore, that economies which adapt quickly to meeting their needs within a low-carbon framework will benefit from a considerable competitive advantage as well as combating climate change at the same time.
Shropshire Green PartyShrewsbury
Sir: I'm astonished to see that some people are still covering the outside of their houses with Christmas lights and illuminated Santas. In some areas, neighbours compete to see who can pile on the most. Why?
"It's for the children," I hear. Is wasting energy a good example to set for the next generation? "But it's for charity." Can't some other way be found to raise money? Children used to enjoy Christmas with just a few fairy lights on a tree.
Our local council is promising us Christmas lights that are "better than ever". Does this mean they'll use even more electricity?
We won't need any more nuclear power stations to be built if we simply use less power. The "I can afford it therefore I can squander it" attitude is no longer justifiable.
Lyme Regis, Dorset
P enalty of defying the ID scheme
Sir: In a letter from Meg Hillier, minister responsible for rolling out the National Identity Scheme, to my MP, Rosie Winterton, it is stated that "We would not expect normally law-abiding citizens to repeatedly refuse [sic] to register for a card which most of their fellow-citizens were using and finding of benefit."
I don't know who "we" are, but the letter continues: "Some people may indeed find it easier to pay a penalty [for non-compliance] than others, and this is something which could inform a decision on the amount of penalty to be required."
So, sheeplike obedience is demanded, otherwise you'll be stung, the extent of which will depend on your personal finances. Dare we disappoint?
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Sir: Tony De-Keyzer (letter, 1 December) highlights this government's attitude to privacy in respect of the discriminatory (and therefore almost certainly illegal) inclusion of individuals' personal data on the ContactPoint database.
Laudable as its aims are, by excluding "celebrities" from the database on grounds of security, the Government is implicitly admitting that the system is not secure. The security and privacy of the rest of us whose details are included must therefore be reduced.
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act provides for the "right to respect for private and family life", and families whose children are not "at risk" (the majority) will have this right diminished by inclusion in an insecure database.
The government position will be that this is permitted under the act for "the protection of the rights and freedoms of others". However, by overriding Article 8 rights for "ordinary" citizens, yet retaining them for "celebrities", the Government will breach Article 14, the "prohibition of discrimination" on "any ground such as . . . status".
If this government is to be trusted, both with our private details and with upholding the law, inclusion in any such database must be universal. Politicians' cavalier disregard for our privacy and security will only be checked when the consequences of a breach of the database also affect those who seek to impose it upon the rest of us.
Sir: Michael Ayton (letter, 29 November) writes of the ID card scheme: "Only in the direst emergency would I and most people I know surrender the rights and liberties Ms Hillier [the Home Office minister] wants us to give up." The point is that any administration which desires power can persuade us of the existence of such an "emergency".
I for one, given the choice, would far rather risk being killed by a terrorist bomb than live under the kind of surveillance which is being proposed. Power not only corrupts, it is highly addictive. It would be better to be dead than to see my children forced to live under the police state which will inevitably result from going down this particular slippery slope.
Absurd distraction from Darfur crimes
Sir: I find it unbelievable, all this media attention being showered on Gillian Gibbons. She knew when she went to Sudan how crazy the laws are there and that the Sudanese people are stuck in the 12th century.
The biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust is being committed in that country, with the militias wantonly maiming, blinding, raping, and murdering men, women and children. Millions have been driven from their own country in the Darfur region of Sudan. It seems Darfur has been completely forgotten about whilst this ludicrous episode goes on.
The man who paved the way for Mugabe
Sir: Cliff Jones presents a rosy and distorted view of Rhodesian history (letter, 30 November). Ian Smith did not so much predict the future of Rhodesia as help to create it. Growing up in Northern Rhodesia, I was able to observe developments in our southern neighbour with a little more objectivity.
If Smith had placed such "enormous emphasis on an individual's ability and not their colour", then why did he not at least keep the modest reforms which Sir Garfield Todd had earlier tried to introduce, such as a qualified franchise on the basis of income or education, and not colour? And why did he proclaim that blacks would never rule in Rhodesia in a thousand years?
And why did he divide the land into two, with the 278,000 whites getting the most fertile half, and the 6.1 million blacks the other half? People who had lived on fertile land for generations, such as the Tangwena people, were unceremoniously evicted (1969) to make way for whites. Many moderate African leaders who opposed minority rule were imprisoned and, according to Amnesty International, many Africans were tortured under Ian Smith's rule.
With policies such as these, Smith created the conditions in which the long and bloody war of independence became inevitable, and in which a ruthless dictator such as Robert Mugabe could come to the fore.
I too admired the industry and enterprise of the white minority, but let's not pretend that they had the interests of all races at heart.
House price collapse would hit us all
Sir: A fall in house prices should not be compared to a drop in the price of petrol (letter, 1 December). BP isn't offering mortgages yet.
The money we borrow on houses becomes part of the money supply, so if prices fall, so does the equity and the amount of money in circulation. This reduction in buying power, coupled with less availability of credit and higher interest rates, will lead to a deflationary spiral.
The central banks have already pumped money into the system to make available more credit and the Governor of the Bank of England has said interest rates will drop in the next 12 months.
Availability of affordable housing, especially for first-time buyers would be welcome, but as the housing market is so closely linked to the economy there is good reason for concern.
SHIPLEY, West Yorkshire
Sir: Joan Bakewell argues that "extravagant consumerism is the enemy of us all" (Opinion, 30 November). No, Joan, poverty sucks, and being able to buy, consume, own things is wonderful. Wait for this coming recession and then try telling everyone how much better their lives are. It reminds me of the German general Moltke who announced, before August 1914 came along and destroyed Europe, that war is good as it cleanses society.
Sir: further to the correspondence on the origin of "clockwork orange", at the Guards Depot, Caterham, in the 1950s, drill and PT instructors would shout: "You, you're about as much use as a clockwork orange" or "a chocolate frog" or even "a diesel-driven dishcloth". Unfortunately we were not in a position to interrogate these NCOs regarding the origins of these phrases. Guards NCOs were not officially allowed to use obscene language to recruits, so they used colourful substitutes including "You're like the bottom of a baby's pram - all piss and biscuits!" All good fun.
Sir: I would like to thank the Catholic Church for pointing out to me that they are the bad guys in His Dark Materials. It did not occur to me when I read it but I accept that, this being how they see themselves, it must be so. I regret that they feel the need to demonstrate that they are right by trying to stop me from seeing the film.
Sir: The feature on how Britain sells itself ("Welcome to the land of slogans", 29 November) reminds me of the heady 1970s when British towns and cities adopted postmarks with messages, some exciting, others bizarre. My favourite was: "Newport home of the mole wrench".
Declaration of wars
Sir: Guy Keleny (Errors & Omissions, 1 December) observes that as it is 62 years since the end of the Second World War we should stop making references to "since the war" or "before the war" on the grounds that "British troops have been involved in three or four wars" since then. Noting that Mr Keleny seeks to be precise in his rulings, is it "three" or "four" wars since 1945? Would he care to name the wars? I think most commentators will say it is more than four.
Bob Russell MP
(Colchester, Lib Dem)House of Commons
Sir: "Mummified dinosaur reveals its secrets" (3 December).
And there was me thinking that this was another revelation about the Labour Party.
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