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Wednesday 29 December 2010
Letters: Criticism of Israel and dislike of Jews
I do not understand David Pollard's argument that it has clearly not been "a vintage year for the Wiesenthal anti-Semitic slur awards, if an obscure Lithuanian Holocaust denier and a moan from Christina Patterson ... have both made it into the Top 10 Slurs of the year" (letter, 27 December).
The Holocaust denier in question is an adviser to the Lithuanian Interior Ministry and wrote his offending words in Veidas, one of his country's most popular weeklies. By what measure is he "obscure"? Christina Patterson, meanwhile, wrote her "moan" not in some fringe publication, but in a newspaper so very mainstream as The Independent itself, which is precisely why it merits consideration for a Top 10 placing.
An anti-Semite is someone who has a generalised dislike of Jews. Ms Patterson denies being such a person; in which case, why did she write an article that gave the impression that she dislikes Judaism, Islam and the people who practice them?
As for her assertion ("How I was smeared as an anti-Semite", 23 December), by way of Hannah Arendt, that one can only hate individual "persons", and not "any people or collective" – if wishing made it so. Events in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur surely prove that human beings are eminently capable of hating (and killing) each other not only as individuals, but also in the mass.
Ms Patterson wrote an article giving the (possibly mistaken) impression that she dislikes Jews and Muslims, and then blamed those who were offended for having taken offence. She reminds me of a saloon bar bore who drones on about immigration and then is surprised to be accused of racism.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
It is obvious that Christina Patterson ("How I was smeared as an anti-Semite", 23 December) is not an anti-Semite. She objects to some Israeli policies, which is totally legitimate and is being done in Israel itself daily. Bur she definitely has an anti-Israel bias, as demonstrated by what she wrote about the proposed Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
She says: "The Museum will be built on the site of a Muslim cemetery, which the Muslims haven't regarded as all that tolerant, which the Muslims have, in fact, been quite upset by." But she does not tell us that in 1964, the Sharia Court (the highest religious Muslim court) in Jaffa dealt with that cemetery, and the President of the Muslim Court of Appeals ruled that the cemetery is mundras – "abandoned" – which means that it has lost its sanctity. More importantly, back in 1929, the highest Muslim religious authority in Palestine, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, initiated the building of the Palace Hotel on part of that cemetery because it was already considered a mundras. In fact, there has been a large municipal parking garage on the same spot for more than 30 years and there have been no objections.
The mundras religious ruling, which allows for abandoned cemeteries to be used for commercial development, is found in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia. It appears that the objection to the museum in Jerusalem has nothing to so with religion and everything to do with anti-Israeli politics.
Dr Jacob Amir
Motives behind the Cable sting
In principle, I am very much in favour of transparency and openness in business, diplomacy and politics: the ground-breaking disclosures by the WikiLeaks organisation are in my view important and positive – particularly when it comes to exposing the double-dealing of our closest ally, which we always strongly suspected but were never able to prove.
The Telegraph's entrapment of Vince Cable and a number of other Lib Dem ministers is entirely another matter. Leaving aside that such tactics are illegal in many countries (the USA in particular), and the methods employed unethical and reprehensible, one is minded to ask, "What public interest was served?"
The disclosure of MP expenses was arguably important and in the public interest: quite what has motivated the Telegraph to descend into gutter journalism in this instance is beyond me, when it is in the interest of everyone in the UK that the policies of our current government are successful.
It is easy to recognise concerns about any conglomerate having a controlling interest in newspapers and broadcasting, but is an important aspect of the Cable-Murdoch feud being missed?
The Daily Telegraph has an agenda. This might be a preference for a Conservative government, and not necessarily a Cameron version. The Telegraph has been picking away at the Lib-Dems; first Laws, now Cable and others. Could this be the real media story?
In late May last year, I remember Vince Cable came to talk to local party activists in south-west London. He pointed out that in contrast to the picture we might get from The Independent, The Guardian and possibly The Times, if we were to look at The Daily Telegraph or the Mail, we would see a passionate desire to kill the Coalition. It seems he had the right information.
Vince Cable has broken the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not embarrass the powers-that-be – even if many people agree with him, especially on the speed of the changes being proposed in the deficit, health and education, as well as local government.
His assessment is all the more cogent because he had a distinguished career in industry before entering politics, unlike the front benches of either party, enabling him to see the folly of rushing through major changes in almost every sector.
He has much more to contribute, especially on the conduct of the banks and on the purchase of major British companies from overseas. Let us hope that this grubby sting operation does not discourage him.
William Robert Haines
This story (for want of a better word) about Vince Cable's unguarded remarks about his attitude to Murdoch has been droning on for about a week while the media take it in turns to denounce first one then the other as hero or villain.
I'm sure the bored British public would begin to be interested if just one newspaper had the wit to recognise that their attention should be focused on the identity and personal shortcomings of the real villains – a couple of newshounds (or newsjackals) who cheated their way into a situation in which they could betray the trust of a respected political figure.
In a five-minute interview on Channel 4 News on the subject of Mr Cable's recent indiscretions, Nick Clegg managed to mention the Labour government's apparent responsibility for our economic difficulties no fewer than five times. Is this a personal record for Mr Clegg? Or has he, when meant to discussing something entirely different, exceeded this impressive total?
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
What the Queen didn't say
In her Christmas message the Queen referred to the beneficial effects of studying sport at school. Character-building lessons in working as part of a team and the development of pride in individual skills are certainly worthwhile objectives, but how can young people who are not suited to or interested in sport be introduced to similar character-building experiences? No mention was made of any alternative.
Is it not ironic that at the same time as the Queen makes such a speech the Government is planning "reforms and redundancies that will kill off music in state schools" (report, 27 December). We are entering a true cultural dark age if the philistines in government get their way in limiting their interest in every cultural activity to its cost.
Even on this basis cutting back on musical education is ridiculous. Many pupils gain worthwhile training in a marketable skill, as do those who take an interest in sport, and the income derived from the "industry" which employs musicians, composers and, of course, teachers should surely be taken into account.
This year's message from the Queen was reminiscent of Basil Fawlty's "Don't mention the war" tirade.
Neither did she mention the collapse of the economy caused by her establishment friends. Not a single word was uttered in respect for fallen soldiers, poverty and inequality. Is she so encapsulated in her own privileged world that she has no idea what is going on?
Instead we had innocuous rubbish about the King James Bible and sport to cover up the ghastly reality.
Otley, West Yorkshire
Insofar as Christmas is a 12-day feast lasting from 25 December to 6 January, it is likely that Brian Viner's cards ("I'm a Christmas card failure", 24 December) posted on Christmas Eve will reach their recipients (in this country at least) before Christmas is over. From a pragmatic standpoint, so long as his greetings are received by his acquaintances before they write next-year's Christmas cards, the cards will have served their purpose of providing assurance to his friends that they have not been dropped.
Barring the poor from professions
The letter (28 December) from Michelle Mitchell and others calling for the opening up of professions to scrutiny to ensure that they are recruiting the best applicants whatever their background does need to be considered against the Government's massive hike in tuition fees.
Most professions these days are graduate entry only. Firms taking on recruits can only select from those who present themselves and if the bright, underprivileged and poor decide not to go to university because of the cost, then this will reflect in the workforce.
The professions should, in consultation with the universities, be prepared to look at 18-plus entry once more, with trainees being able to pass professional exams by part-time study.
John E Orton
Stop wasting food waste
Your report about the four-score incinerators planned for England (28 December) overlooks a salient aspect of the matter. I recently asked a public question here of the council's member for the environment about any plans he might have for increasing the composting of domestic food waste.
Dismayingly, he claimed that it was not worth it. Even worse, he was unable to answer my supplementary question, which asked him the percentage of food waste in collections made by "this authority's dustbinpersons".
I knew full well that the figure is as large as 40 per cent, and I am not being paid to know. It is high time that, in one form or another, local authorities encouraged residents to enjoy – in Shakespeare's phrase, albeit in another context – "the joy of the worm".
Nature reserves in danger
Michael McCarthy is over-optimistic in claiming in his report "Plans to dispose of nature reserves in chaos" (27 December) that wildlife charities "all have the necessary expertise" to run National Nature Reserves.
Organisations with specific interests such as RSPB, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife on the one hand and county based local wildlife trusts on the other, cannot match the range of skills and experience across a range of habitats, species and ecosystems available to Natural England, the agency currently managing these precious sites.
The Government's apparent determination to sell off NNRs would, as Mr McCarthy indicates, save little or no money and smacks of the dangerous mixture of dogma and ignorance which seems to characterise many of the Coalition's current policy initiatives.
Brompton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire
What about the music?
"Dumbing down" is well entrenched in Radio 3, with "top tens", favourite arias, audience participation, celebrity interviews and all the other features that have ruined a once-great institution.
The letters you have published defending the policies indicate perhaps the worst aspect: presenters, rather than music, have become the focal point. Whether it be the mannered "wit" of one presenter or the matey heartiness of another, they have taken over. Even the listings give the names of presenters before the conductors or performers.
I once thought that Radio 3 was the ace in the deck when defending British "culture" against, say, American. Now I never listen and wouldn't raise a finger to defend it, even against Tory philistines.
L D Johnston
Washington deserves better
It is reported that David Miliband may be offered the post of ambassador to the United States. As we move to a more independent, pro-European foreign policy it is essential to have a mature, experienced diplomat in this key role, someone who is objective over the Middle East and experienced in working with other countries.
David Miliband does not meet this specification at all. He should remain an MP, or if this doesn't fit his august view of himself, see if he can get a job in a university or business. This is too important a role to be handed to the loser of the Labour leadership quest.
While I always enjoy reading Steve Richards' political columns, have you ever considered appointing him as a television critic? His comments (21 December) about the leisured pace of The Trip compared with the irritating, jumpy style of most TV programmes are spot on. Maybe he'd be able to come up with a review comparing the absorbing, reflective pace of the Swedish TV Wallander as opposed to the over-stylised, editing-for-its-own-sake British version?
Perspectives on sportsmanship
Why was Ponting let off so lightly?
I am dumbfounded at the obviously lenient punishment given out following the disgraceful berating of the on-field umpires on the second day of the fourth Ashes Test match.
For a start, it wasn't just team captain Ricky Ponting; many other Australian players got involved, yet have escaped sanction. Furthermore, irrespective of what was said on the field between those involved, no consideration seems to have been given to how the prolonged haranguing presented itself to those who were watching, and had paid good money for the privilege of seeing the match.
The behaviour was worse than some referee-baiting by players I've seen in professional football matches following a disputed penalty, for example, yet in this case a 40 per cent match fee fine for just the team captain is considered enough. It wasn't.
Football will have to embrace technology
As we move into 2011, try estimating what percentage of football analysis will be spent on the football and what percentage will be spent on refereeing decisions with the aid of action replays. The refs will be slated for decisions made in real time from one angle.
The use of officials off the pitch would not slow the game in the case of penalties, goal line decisions and red cards, because the existing system loses even more time while players surround the ref to argue their case.
The ruling bodies will eventually have to use the technology available. They should accept the inevitable soone, rather than delay and suffer week after week of bad decisions.
How long before a team calls in the lawyers to claim recompense for financial loss due to a decision is later proved to be wrong?
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