Letters: Israel needs to stop undermining Jewish values

These letters appear in the August 2 edition of The Independent

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I am Jewish. My refugee parents arrived in Britain in 1939. All my grandparents died in the gas chambers.

I fully understand why Israel is determined that Jews should never again be victims. But I believe that over the past 50 years Israel has taken a wrong path. I am dismayed that a people to which I belong, which has suffered so much at the hands of the Nazi regime and others, should have become an aggressor. 

Israel’s behaviour creates new generations who hate Israel and grow up determined to take revenge and gain justice. And so the cycle continues, taking Israel ever further from the security it craves. Moreover, Israel’s actions are undermining core Jewish values such as kindness and compassion.

Israel needs to find a radically new path, both for the sake of peace and for the sake of the soul – the spiritual well-being – of the Jewish people. Perhaps it’s only Jews who can tell Israel this without being dismissed as anti-Semitic. And most of those of us living outside Israel have been far too silent. 

We need, with love and understanding, to encourage Israel to embrace a bold new approach that will in time allow Palestinians and Jews to live at ease with one another.

Peter Stevenson


Your edition of 1 August contained an excellent round up of recent anti-Semitism by crime reporter Cahal Milmo. It was, however, severely undermined by accusations (on the previous page) from foreign comment writer Robert Fisk, who claimed that any “honest critic of Israel” using the word “disproportionate” would be called a Nazi by “Israel’s would-be supporters”.

This is exactly the kind of vague catch-all language that causes British Jews to suffer the antisemitism detailed by Cahal Milmo, because by implication it risks catching the majority of British Jews in its net.

Mark Gardner
Community Security Trust


It may seem pedantic while Gaza burns to refer to international law, but it is fundamental to any solution. While Martin Stern (letter, 31 July) is right that the 1949 Armistice Line is not an internationally recognised border, he is wrong to suggest that Israel may therefore lawfully occupy Palestinian land beyond it.

International law says that this is a violation of the UN Charter, as expressed in UN Security Council resolution 242, which Israel accepts, which states categorically “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. There is no getting around this.

Furthermore, the whole international community, except Israel, considers all lands captured in 1967 as “occupied”, and therefore the Fourth Geneva Convention is also applicable. Article 47 forbids any body from ceding any part of occupied territory to the occupier, something the Quartet in its so-called Road Map seems to have overlooked. It is there for a vital reason: to protect an occupied people from unbearable political or military pressure. No Convention signatory could accept the ceding of any occupied territory, even in the event of the occupied people’s representative agreeing to it. There is no getting around that either.

If Israel withdrew completely, it would indeed be able to make a territorial claim, through the law not war. But it is a dangerous course for Israel to adopt. In the words of a British diplomat acting on legal advice in August 1967, “If the [1949] armistice agreements are to be regarded as annulled ab initio, it destroys Israel’s claim to one third of the territories she has occupied since 1948, including Eilat, since it seems to take us back to the 1947 [UN Partition] resolutions.” I doubt if Israel or its supporters have much appetite for that.

David McDowall
Richmond, Surrey


Ukraine deal: some good news at last

I am not sure whether it was wise of you to publish the details of the German peace plan for Ukraine at this stage, but if it is true, it is one of the best things I have heard for a long time, in contrast to the usual depressing news from elsewhere (“Land for gas: secret German deal could end Ukraine crisis”, 31 July).

I think it is quite disgraceful that the only comment from a spokesman of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was that he thought it highly unlikely that the US or UK would agree to recognising Russian control over Crimea. Are the governments of the USA and UK crazy? Crimea has always been part of Russia and most of the population are Russian.

Also, I should have thought it was obvious to everybody (apart, apparently, from Anglo-Saxon politicians) that Angela Merkel has a better understanding of the Russians than Barack Obama, John Kerry, David Cameron and Philip Hammond put together, along with their myriad experts and advisers. If she and Vladimir Putin can come to an agreement, it would be as well for these masters of the universe to accept it.

Peter Giles
Whitchurch, Shropshire


It is obviously too early to be 100 per cent certain of the causes of the Eastbourne pier fire, but there is undoubtedly compelling evidence somewhere on social media that traces culpability, either directly or indirectly, to President Putin.

Failure to act swiftly and firmly, leaving such actions to go unpunished, would surely be the height of irresponsibility.

Geoff Woolf
Shenfield, Essex


City stronger without the bank cheats

Reacting to the Bank of England’s decision on bank bonuses, some have warned that it will undermine London’s ability to attract banking talent from around the world, as if impropriety were an essential qualification for the job.

The fact is that for years, some bankers inflated dividends and gave themselves huge salaries and bonuses not by their talent for initiative and efficiency, but by devising ways of cheating the public and ruining the economy. And not just in this country, as the great financial crash demonstrated.

Clearing the sector of such practices will not hurt London; it will attract honest, constructive expertise and increase its competitiveness. If anything, this is a measure to be copied by other financial centres.

Hamid Elyassi
London E14


Back in the days when schools and hospitals worked tolerably well, teachers, nurses and junior doctors were very poorly paid. I don’t suggest that their low pay was the cause of their institutions’ success; but it clearly wasn’t an impediment to their doing a good job. They did their best because theirs was a job worth doing. They were people for whom money was not the prime motivator.

But we are told that, to attract the best bankers, only huge salaries will do. Surely the best person to do a job is one who thinks it worthwhile, not the one who does it just for the money. As long as we continue to allow the payment of disgracefully huge salaries we shall go on employing grubby little people, and we shouldn’t be surprised if some of them rob us.

Susan Alexander
Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire


Too poor to pay council tax

We share the concerns highlighted in your report on cuts to council tax benefit (“Council tax rises hit Britain’s poor hardest”, 25 July).

In our report on the impact in London, A New Poll Tax?, families previously deemed too poor to pay council tax but now no longer protected tell us that it is simply not possible for them to make these payments from household budgets already stretched to breaking point.

Four in 10 affected Londoners have been sent a court summons for non-payment, many face a double punishment when court costs are added. In London alone, councils have charged over £10m in court costs for council-tax support claimants who have fallen behind on payments.

All parties should commit to returning to a fully funded council tax benefit system. Local authorities and central government should not be taxing families too poor to pay.

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, CPAG
London N1

Joanna Kennedy
Chief Executive, Z2K
London N1


Driverless courtesy cars?

Reading about self-driving cars again, I am now less concerned than I was about the safety of the autopilots and the chance to get insurance for them, but I do wonder: will these cars have some kind of a “courtesy programme” added to their computer brains?

Will they give way on a single track, offer a slip into the queue from the side road, signal a pedestrian to use a crossing or allow backing out of a parking space?

Sonja Karl
Bangor, Gwynedd


If a driverless car (insured or not) is involved in an accident on the open road, will the car be represented in court?

Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire