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Friday 5 June 2009
Letters: Gordon Brown
The wolves circle the only credible leader we have
So the Labour Party politicians want Gordon Brown out "for the good of the country"? Rubbish, they want him out for their own self-interest, to preserve their seats in Parliament and their access to the lucrative opportunities it brings them.
Gordon Brown is the only credible person to take the country through the current economic situation, and then let the people decide on election day next year who they want in Parliament to take the country forward and who they trust with public money.
Of course, much of the present furore is being stirred up by the media, who circle Gordon Brown like ravening wolves. We can vote politicians out, but we can't vote out newspaper and TV news editors. Pity.
East Ewell, Surrey
As a Labour Party member I think it is appalling that some of our MPs are plotting to get rid of the PM. If only they spent half as much energy on exposing David Cameron and campaigning as they do on this appalling behaviour.
Gordon Brown is head and shoulders above these people and is best placed to bring this country out of recession.
Where is the big clunking fist?
Batley, West Yorkshire
If Abraham Lincoln's adage that you get the representatives you deserve is true, would someone tell me what on earth I have done wrong?
Israeli settlements go on expanding
Donald Macintyre's report of 3 June reveals once again the hypocrisy of Israeli spokespersons when talking about settlements. Macintyre quotes Dov Weisglass as saying "that no further Palestinian land would be expropriated, and that expansion would be within the existing construction line". What utter nonsense.
The article was illustrated by a picture of Beitar Illit, an illegal settlement about two kilometres inside the Green Line. I have visited the Palestinian village of Wadi Fuqin, which is dominated by Beitar Illit, three times in the past four years. On each occasion I saw how the settlement continues to expand its borders, slicing off the top of the hill and pushing the spoil down into the Wadi Fuqin valley.
This is not natural expansion. Both in 2007 and this year many of the apartment blocks were empty. This is theft, pure and simple. I have seen the same thing in Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, and Har Homa just outside Bethlehem.
It is far overdue for Western governments to call a halt and to demand that Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders.
David Simmonds (letters, 27 May) calls Murray Fink "naive" for suggesting that if Hamas stopped bombarding Israeli towns with rockets, that might assist the peace process. But for prize naivety Mr Simmonds takes the biscuit.
He suggests that if Israel withdrew to the 1949 Armistice line (which he misdescribes as "the 1967 borders"), Hamas would recognise Israel's existence. Experience, particularly Israel's withdrawal from its settlements in the Gaza strip, shows that the opposite is likely. Hamas, like all the worst terrorist organisations, interpret such concessions as a sign of weakness and that their attacks have borne fruit. Accordingly, they redouble their attacks, as we have seen.
The way to peace is not by harking back to boundaries of 40 or 60 years ago. It lies in recognising the present reality. Major towns such as Maale Adumim, built on what I remember as part of the Judean Desert, are part of the reality, and are and should remain part of Israel.
Peace can be established, but it will be a slow process. The Arabs who live in Israel and now form 20 per cent of its population have shown the way. That was the way being followed in the West Bank from 1967 to about 1986, when Arafat disrupted the growth of co-operation between Jews and Arabs.
By building trade, one builds trust. By extending prosperity, one extends hope. Dramatic gestures by political leaders may help, but real peace is built slowly, by ordinary folk.
John M Collins
John Wight (letter, 1 June) attacks my position on the Edinburgh Film Festival and Ken Loach.
This is the same John Wight who wrote on his own website: "I was the one who originally contacted Ken for help with the campaign and therefore I do feel responsible for ensuring that any heat he now takes as a consequence he doesn't take alone." I'm sure Ken can defend himself, and I would hope he would be able to it by explaining why his films are distributed in Israel if he believes in a total boycott of Israel.
In response to Mr Wight, the creation of the State of Israel by the UN in 1948 changed the landscape. Get over it. Yasser Arafat did. Anwar Sadat did. King Hussein and Mahmoud Abbas did. It happened. Just as surely as my own family were ordered out of Egypt for being Jewish in 1956, just as surely as the Jewish people were kicked out of England in 1290 and not let back in for 500 years. You want to do history? We can do history and it goes way back before the Holocaust.
This isn't to justify the pain and suffering caused to the Palestinians, but the context for any debate has to be that Israel has a right to exist and it is the implicit denial of that very thing that actually hinders peace. Explicit acceptance of that right to exist, with the attendant reassurance, will influence the minds of Israelis and their supporters.
I wish that the settlement building would stop and Israel pulled out of the West Bank and moved that big wall to the pre-1967 border, in return for peace with all Arab countries. My position with regard to Israel is broadly in line with that of all of the governments of the UK for the past 60 years. If the Edinburgh Film Festival and its backers could say the same thing, we should be able to lay the matter to rest.
In the west, a reluctance across much of the Middle East to recognise "the right of Israel to exist" has often seemed a perverse refusal to accept reality. But, the word "right" is a terrible obstacle.
To accept a right rather than a fact involves Palestinians in a denial of their own history. The latest efforts, led by Avigdor Lieberman, to embed that recognition in definitions of citizenship can only be intended to make that denial all the more painful. The state of Israel, within its present borders, contains two peoples with two histories, and both are entitled to their competing narratives without civil penalty.
The will of the Scottish people
Richard Ingrams is an excellent columnist; thought-provoking, entertaining and frequently educational, but his piece on the reaction to the Rev Scott Rennie's call to Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen ("What was a vocation has turned into just another job", 30 May) betrays either ignorance of Protestant doctrine or sloppy thinking.
Believing, as we do, in the "priesthood of all believers" why should we expect self-sacrifice from our ministers? What is important is our individual response to God's unconditional gift of love, and to say that the Church can only survive by such visible sacrifice shows a deep pessimism about the Christian future.
But perhaps this also betrays a more general belief in hierarchy, a belief which separates Scotland and England far more profoundly than Hadrian's Wall or funny accents. In England all authority derives from the Queen. In Scotland the general view is that legitimate authority derives from the will of the people as expressed in Parliament: hence the growing influence and importance of Holyrood.
As Burns put it, "The rank is but the guinea stamp – a man's a man for a' that." This fundamental difference in how we see ourselves and each other is, I suspect, the force which will eventually see Scotland seek its political future outwith the Union.
Why we know so little about Europe
Hamish McRae is right – how many of us know who our MEPs are, or who is the Minister for Europe or who our Commissioner is (Opinion, 3 June)?. Why? At present, neither our own Parliament, nor the European Parliament, nor the UN Assembly are properly reported in the daily or Sunday press.
Sport, business, crime are all reported at length but the great national and international executive organisations are not. No wonder there is shady business – "expenses" – and suspicion – "they're only in it for the money" – and ignorance.
There used to be proper reporting at least of our own Parliament. There should be again – and of the other bodies – if our political systems are to return to health.
The media has ignored one very significant aspect of the European Parliament. I refer to David Cameron's attendance at the Law and Justice Convention with Warsaw on 30 May and his decision to join a three-way right-wing alliance intended to destroy the Lisbon Treaty.
His allies are the Czech ODS, whose leader refuses to believe in climate change, and the controversial Kaczynski twins from Poland, with a record of banning gay marches and supporting the death penalty, who are now calling for a "Christian Europe". The main common bond, other than their right-wing dottiness, is their refusal to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, but they are unlikely to have much impact in the new European Parliament because they will be a tiny group in comparison with the Christian Democrat, Social democrat and Liberal blocs, the first of which the Tories voluntarily abandoned.
Ministers who meddle too much
Mel Wild (Letters, 4 June) advocates cabinet ministers be appointed for their professional aptitude in a particular portfolio, and then left in place. However, I believe that much of our national malaise comes from politicians thinking that their job was "to run things" and starting to take an executive role in the health service, education, the armed forces etc, often with disastrous results.
Surely it is better to think of the Cabinet as the "non-executive directors" who set the policies, general direction and tone of government, but leave the actual running to the professionals in the Civil Service. Non-execs do move around freely.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Given the high level of debt held by our leading football clubs ("Players earn over £1bn in Premier League bonanza", 4 June) and television networks' over-reliance on football income, are we going to see soon television's equivalent of the sub-prime housing market? I fear that there is a real risk of television networks collapsing under the weight of collateral debt?
Perhaps I could help Michael Swan (Letters, 4 June) finish his sentence about the reasons for our fighting a war in Afghanistan. "We are fighting it in order to (wait for it) punch above our weight." The phrase was first used by Douglas Hurd to justify our foolishly expensive defence commitments. "Punching above our weight" is, of course, a euphemism for "living beyond our means".
Read the lines
I read your editorial (1 June) on the difficulty of understanding modern television drama with increasing irritation. At no point did it mention that anyone with a digital television – two-thirds of the population and 100 per cent in three years' time – has the option of turning on the subtitles. Watching The Wire with subtitles is just like watching a foreign film, except that you don't need them much of the time. Every "street" person inhabiting the drug-ridden Baltimore housing projects is totally comprehensible.
No more cheap oil
You report (2 June) that the AA and other motoring organisations consider that rising oil prices threaten Britain's economic recovery. To which one can only respond that if recovery depends on Brent crude not exceeding $70 per barrel, then we can wait for ever. Unless some enormous new oilfield is found, the extra demand stimulated by recovery will force prices up. Oil is a finite resource. We have to think of a future economy that is not dependent on cheap energy from fossil fuels.
I have listened to what David Cameron has had to say, and I conclude that his party's current slogan "Now for change" is simply code for "It's our turn again." Without some commitment to electoral reform on his part this is not change we can believe in.
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