Letters: Critics of Israel

Who are these victimised critics of Israel?
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Lord Phillips (Opinion, 1 February) believes that non-Jewish critics of Israel are silent for fear of being labelled antisemitic. Whenever I hear such a comment, I ask the person who makes it to give me an example of when a critic of Israel has been incorrectly labelled as antisemitic (using the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism ). They never can give an example. Those who use this allegation are attempting to suppress the right of Jews who are on the receiving end of racism to speak out.

Lord Phillips' assertion that Israel is in "cavalier breach of International Law, the UN Charter, its Conventions and Resolutions" is wrong. Surprisingly – especially for a lawyer – he does not state precisely what law it is that Israel has breached. Neither does he say what the purpose of the checkpoints is. It is to ensure there are no more suicide bombers of the kind that have killed hundreds of Israelis in recent years. Remember March 2002 when 22 were killed and 140 wounded at the Park Hotel in Netanya while celebrating Passover?

As for "criminally disproportionate" retribution? I'm surprised that a lawyer does not know that under the laws of war, "proportionality" does not mean "like for like". In the Second World War, far more Germans were killed than British. It means using means which are not out of proportion to the aims.

Jonathan Hoffman

London N20

Your readers should hearken to Andrew Phillips' sane and erudite article. For far too long we have tiptoed round the vexed issues he raises.

No, the state of Israel should not be allowed to hide behind the terrible events of the Shoah, dubbing all opposition to its appalling human rights record as antisemitic.

No, despite the propaganda doled out by its many spokesmen, Israel should not get away with its miserable justification for the slaughter of thousands of Palestinians in the recent Gaza invasion. No, it should not be allowed to defy dozens of UN resolutions against its abuse of Arabs over the past five decades. And, finally, powerful lobbying organisations should not be able to intimidate politicians and stifle debate over continued settlement building in Judea and Samaria. Even the President of the US runs scared of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; hence his recent backtracking over settlements in East Jerusalem.

Israel is the emperor dancing naked through the streets. The media and most of our politicians seem only too eager to promote the myth that the rogue state is somehow clothed in the fine garments of democracy, fighting shoulder to shoulder against international terrorists, when the naked truth is that they are responsible for many acts of state terrorism.

Geoff Akers


Papal visit to a secular society

The Pope has confirmed that he will make a state visit to our country, but doesn't much like our equality legislation for gay men and women. Surely he must be familiar with the maxim "When in Rome...".

Roy Askew

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

In normal circumstances, a dictatorial head of state who brooks no criticism, treats women as second-class citizens, regards homosexuality as an aberration, causes thousands of children every year to be born into grinding poverty by his opposition to contraception, and who has encouraged the spread of HIV by opposing condoms, would be regarded as a pariah. In the case of the Pope we are supposed to be grateful that he has deigned to grace this country with a state visit.

We should make it clear to the "holy" father that in a secular, liberal, European democracy his views are wholly unacceptable and that he is not welcome.

Ian Richards


Has not the Church throughout its history done what the Pope accuses our Equality Bill of doing, namely "imposing unjust limitations" on its faithful? Only when the Church fears its own freedom to act is being threatened, does it suddenly jump to a defence of freedom.

Those who are happy to live with the fantasy that "the truth... articulated by the Church's Magisterium... sets us free" (Benedict XVI) must also live with the belief that a convict in prison is freer than he was on the outside.

Dr Michael B Johnson


Any chance of the Government applying the Immigration Regulations 2006 correctly for once? They allow the exclusion from the UK of anyone who poses "a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society".

Jeremy Walker

London WC1

As a religious leader the Pope is entitled to express whatever is on his mind (just as we have the right to ignore it). But it's an unwritten rule that heads of state don't comment on the internal affairs of other states. The Pope claims to be a head of state.

Tim Hudson

Chichester, West Sussex

"People of faith" have every right to exert their influence using our democratic system, but they must not be allowed to invoke their beliefs to trump that system.

Patrick Smith

Beccles, Suffolk

Choosing to avoid a death in agony

I read Alison Davis's letter with mixed feelings (1 February). I am pleased for her that she is still alive and enjoying life. I am not sure she has a terminal condition; so perhaps she doesn't understand what it is like. I watched two relatives die in agony and over a long period. There was no hope for them, and they wanted to go as quickly and painlessly as possible.

I now find myself in a similar condition, and when my condition deteriorates I have no wish to hang on in pain. I would rather say my farewells in my own time to family and friends and be remembered as normally as possible, not screaming in agony. I was scarred by the deaths of my relatives and can only remember their suffering. I don't want that for my family.

May I say that it is the person with the condition that should make the decision – no one else. And they should not be told what they can and can't do.

S Scott

London N20

The German way of craftsmanship

Bruce Anderson (Comment, 25 January) thinks the Germans may be culturally more technically orientated than ourselves. Maybe, but they, like most other developed nations, have mandatory standards for all the main trades.

Several consequences flow from this. First, it incentivises the great mass of pupils who are not naturally academic and respond to some tangible reward for their efforts. This has a beneficial effect on classroom behaviour.

Second, it provides a clear career path towards relatively secure employment and, crucially, enhanced social status (the German master craftsman is a highly respected member of the community).

Third, it influences attitudes and encourages responsible lifestyles in a variety of ways, not all with obvious connections to trade. It may even be an answer to our binge-drinking culture, at least in part.

Finally, society generally benefits from a higher and more reliable standard of competence by tradesmen/women. If we adopted the German approach we might even cease to be the cowboy capital of the world.

Clive Tucker


Pilkington deaths investigation

To clarify your article relating to the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter ("Business as usual in Barwell", 30 January), the Independent Police Complaints Commission's independent investigation into the actions of Leicestershire Police started during the inquest in September last year and is ongoing.

We have gathered a variety of material and liaised with the police force, local social services and Hinckley Borough Council, who have co-operated fully. We have carried out an extensive review of records of contact between the Pilkingtons and Leicestershire police over several years prior to their deaths, and are in the course of making further inquiries.

We have served advisory notices on a number of Leicestershire police officers, and this situation is being kept under review. Such notices are not judgemental in any way, but are required under police misconduct regulations, and served on officers to advise that their conduct is under investigation.

We are progressing this significant investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Amerdeep Somal

Commissioner, Independent Police Complaints Commission, London WC1

Cyberspace clash with HM Revenue

I can sympathise with Bob Knowles (letter, 1 February) in his attempts to sort out his tax on-line. Although I got my fairly simple calculation done, with help from my wife and an accountant friend and most of a weekend, when it came to paying what we calculated was owed I hit the brick firewall.

To pay HMRC any money, you have to remember your password from last year (it is not the kind of password, obviously, that you use apart from at the end of January and we are not supposed to write them down.) But somehow I managed to get through.

I have today been sent my "submission receipt reference number" which has 29 characters and three numbers. I calculate that, to the Chancellor, I am not one in a million but one in 1.082 times 10 to the power 44. That is a number twice as big as the number of stars in the known universe. Only the Revenue would need a number as complicated as that to differentiate me from anybody else on their books.

Colin Standfield

London W7

I sympathise with Mr Knowles's online frustration. I used the DVLA online system to renew my road tax. It took my money but sent no disc. I phoned and they assured me one had been sent, but they'd send a duplicate. This also failed to arrive. Another phone call. "Sorry, only one duplicate allowed. And by the way, you're now breaking the law for not displaying your tax disc." So I had to be driven 40 miles to Leeds to get a renewal in person.

Allan Friswell

Cowling, North Yorkshire

While the failure of the Revenue's online income tax form to accept standard keyboard characters (such as double quotation marks) is tedious, what's more annoying is its grammatical blunderousness.

There are several instances of "none" followed by a plural verb, and at least one of "based on..." when what's meant is "on the basis of...". There's even a "practice" for "practise" (the verb).

Michael Ayton



Star eclipsed

There was a noticeable omission in "100 Years of Movie Stars" last week. Henry Fonda, Oscar winner in 1981 and named 6th Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, did not even get a mention.

John Mundy

Chislehurst, Kent


Pete Dorey assumes that small class sizes are better for pupils (letter, 2 February). I have primary school pictures from the 1950s showing classes of 40-plus being commonplace, and yet we all left primary school able to read, write and do basic maths without artificial aids. I suspect it is the control the teacher has over the class (including what and how they teach) that matters, rather than any particular class size.

Andrew Whyte


No armour needed

If I may be permitted to join in your heralded backlash (Pandora, 2 February), it is clear that the other-worldly Morgan Freeman has failed to grasp that, unlike American football players, rugby players are seriously hard athletes, not delicate wusses whose main talent is memorising dance routines. Hope that helps.

Kevin Smith

London SE22

Iran next

News that the US is moving ships and missiles into the Gulf comes as little surprise after the US Senate decided to pass a Bill containing broad sanctions punishing foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand its domestic refinery capabilities. These crippling sanctions represent a dramatic move away from Obama's previous strategy of engagement with Tehran. The naval blockade required to enforce the sanctions – no doubt with RN help - could take us to the brink of war.

Stefan Simanowitz

Chair, Westminster Committee on Iran, London NW3

If only

I am impressed by the high standards set by The Independent. Reading (1 February) about how Joe Orton "wrote only three novels" and about Rip Torn "whose only Oscar nomination came in the 1983 film Cross Creek" I am unsure whether to reassess the extent of my own achievements or my future use of the word "only".

Chris Millican

Rotherham, South Yorkshire