Letters: Terror and the birth of Israel

Irgun and Stern terror attacks led to birth of Israel
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Dr Jacob Amir's letter (9 January) claiming that those who deny the right of Israel to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people while not opposing any other nation state can be called anti-Semitic is not persuasive.

He conveniently overlooks the means by which statehood was achieved by the agreement in 1947 for the British mandate to cease in 1948 and for a division of the territory to be finally allocated, following large land allocations to Jewish settlers since 1917, enabling the kibbutzim to be set up.

These means consisted of a series of terrorist attacks, starting in 1944, by the Irgun Zwei Leumi, led by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang, including the bomb attack on the King David hotel in Jerusalem and culminating in the Deir Yassin massacre as late as April 1948 which caused such a panic that hundreds of thousands of terrified Arabs left the country "voluntarily", thus vacating their land and reducing their majority in the population.

In 1946, I was in the RAF in Palestine as a briefing clerk at an airfield between Haifa and Nazareth. Our unit had its headquarters at the King David Hotel and I was on the phone to them at the time of the attack. Although non-combatants, we manned a nightly armed security guard against terrorist attacks. Yet our neighbours in the two kibbutzim along and across the road were always friendly and hospitable and regularly invited us to meals and concerts.

I never was and never shall be anti-Semitic but I too view the means of obtaining statehood at the expense of the Arab population over and above what was intended and agreed as deeply deplorable, as deplorable as the continuation of the same attitude in today's expansionist politics.

James Snowden


Diego Garcia's fate depends on Iran

Until the problem of Iran's nuclear programme is resolved, there can be no hope of the US leaving its strategic base on Diego Garcia ("Man v marine", 10 February). Only four airbases are capable of supporting B-2 bomber operations. Diego Garcia is the only one in South-east Asia the US could use in a campaign against the Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US has airbases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but agreements with these countries prevent them from being used for attacks on a third nation. The present Turkish government would never allow the use of its facilities for attacking Iran. And the potential threat of Israel joining the air campaign would bar other states in the region from allowing the use of their bases. The F-18 aircraft from US naval task forces are not capable of carrying the bunker-busting bombs requir-ed for such a campaign.

The other three bases for B-2 bombers are Whiteman AFB Missouri, Guam in the Pacific and RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. When the Government and the Tory opposition say the military option for Iran is still on the table, they are telling us they are prepared to allow the US to use British bases either in the Indian Ocean or Gloucestershire for an attack on Iran, if they continue with their nuclear bomb programme.

The ramifications of such a policy on the British people is that not only is the wildlife of the Chagos at risk but the safety of the world.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Congratulations on an excellent, well-balanced article by Michael McCarthy. Conservation and human rights can go hand in hand. The unseemly rush by the Foreign Office and the Chagos Environment Network to get a Marine Preservation Area established before the Chagossian case (to return to their homeland) comes up at Strasbourg shames the Government and all concerned.

The UK went to war to keep the Falklanders on their islands but refuse to return the Chag-ossians to theirs, after forcibly exiling them in the first place.

Celia Whittaker

Leyland, Lancashire

Any environment needs management and human presence. Your article on the Chagos Islands certainly highlights the beauty of the deep seas but omits an important factor.

Conservationists wish to deny any hope of the islanders to their homeland, but it seems they have nothing to say about a huge US military base and the impact of that on the environment. Surely the presence of the US military on Diego Garcia is more likely to be detrimental to the environment than the development of a small-scale, sustainable economy planned by the Chagossians. Let them return.

Sylvia Boyes

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Don't be brutal with Brutalist buildings

Maybe I'm in the minority in finding buildings such as Birmingham City Library awesomely beautiful rather than "ugly", but I am surprised that Jay Merrick is so pessimistic about the future of Brutalist buildings (report, 6 February). The best examples of Brutalism must soon be listed, and it's certainly not true that "Grade II listings can be ignored on the grounds of the economic or social benefit of redevelopment". It's only in "very exceptional cases", where a replacement building would "bring substantial benefits for the community", that demolition may be considered.

But if Birmingham City Council really regards listing as no impediment to development this is a real cause of concern. With conservation decision-making being delegated to local authority level, such disregard of basic conservation principles is outrageous.

Catherine Croft

Director, The Twentieth Century Society, London EC1

Climate quote is old stuff

You make rather a meal out of Sir John Houghton's disputed eight-word quote on climate change, "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen" (report, 10 February), which I used in my 2009 book, Cool Thinking on Climate Change. But Sir John himself has questions to answer. This quote has been in the public domain, and widely cited, for many years. Why has he only now come out of the woodwork to deny it?

In any case, there are many similar well-authenticated quotes from climate alarmists. In my book, I also quote Stephen Schneider: "We need to capture the public imagination ... so we need to offer up scary scenarios, and make little mention of any doubts we may have."

Roger Helmer MEP (C, East Midlands)

Market Harborough, Leicestershire

We need not boldly go into space

Mark Stewart (letters, 10 February) asks why manned space flight should matter. His own answer is that the past success of space exploration is our greatest technological achievement, and future manned exploration offers the chance of some kind of extra-terrestrial lifeboat, should we exhaust resources here on Earth. I would suggest that, by themselves, these are not adequate reasons for funding manned spaceflight.

Unmanned space missions are technologically wonderful and have the capacity to yield all sorts of benefits. These include the practical applications of satellites orbiting the Earth (not just satnav and trash TV), as well as research missions revealing the wonders of our solar system and beyond.

No doubt the astronauts on the International Space Station perform useful work but with increasingly sophisticated automation it is hard to believe that in future most, if not all, tasks could not be performed by machines. If this is the case, there seems to be little justification for sending men and women into space just to show they are made of the "right stuff".

And it seems unlikely that more than an infinitesimal fraction of humanity would get on the "lifeboat"; then where would they go and to what benefit? A much better strategy for the long-term survival of our species would surely be to put our efforts and money into achieving a proper balance between our resource demands and the capacity of the Earth to meet them.

Jonathan Wallace

Newcastle upon Tyne

Blair and 'some great conspiracy'

Tony Blair describes what he thinks ought to have happened about the rights and wrongs of the invasion of Iraq (letters, 12 February). He and those who opposed him should have concluded, "We disagree; you're a reasonable person, I'm a reasonable person, but we disagree", and we should have let him get on with the decisions. Instead, his critics are in search of "some great conspiracy".

But this wasn't a disagreement between two reasonable people. It was a disagreement between a powerful person who wanted to unleash a catastrophic and illegal war, and many powerless people helplessly forced to watch him do it. These people are not now in search of great conspiracies, but instead want him to account for himself in the light of the facts, rather than the fantasies he wove around the justification for war.

So he now has to sit in front of the occasional inquiry (hardly relentless) and put up with a few impertinent questions which he never directly answers, and yet he finds that frustrating. What's his problem? Does he think there's some "great conspiracy" against him?

Phil Cole


Help for guests and hoteliers

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Stephen Kaufer

CEO and Co-Founder, TripAdvisor, Newton Upper Falls, Minnesota, USA

Why fund theology?

Dominic Lawson should take his logic a step further and ask, "How can the state justify supporting the irrational?" (letters, 12 February). What justification is there for the state to support the funding of university faculties of theology and divinity? But they too have friends in very high places.

David Smith

Westerham, Kent

Pass Laws peril

If Gordon Brown was as much an opponent of apartheid as he would have us believe (Comment, 11 February), surely he is aware that Pass Laws allowed the minority government to control every aspect of the lives of the majority. He intends to introduce a scheme here that will hand to a future administration the means to apply similar controls over our rights of privacy, assembly, protest and movement as well as access to benefits and healthcare.

Andrew Calvert

Eastcote, Middlesex

Flat 'No' to fizz

It is not true that fizzy drinks lead to weakening of bones (report, 11 February). There is a confusion about different forms of acid in the body. Abandoning milk consumption, whether in favour of fizzy drinks or any other beverage, can reduce the calcium intake necessary for bone health. Children, and especially teenage girls, should be encouraged to choose a range of drinks to provide their nutrient and hydration needs.

Richard Laming

Media Director, British Soft Drinks Association, London WC2

Right and wrong

I would be interested to know what polling Steve Richards did to substantiate the claim that public opinion is turning against the right (Comment, 11 February). The latest British Social Attitudes survey shows that more voters identify with the Conservatives than with Labour for the first time in 20 years, and the number supporting increased taxes and spending plummeted during Labour's binge years.

Daniel Gilbert

London SW4

Time to change

Hit & Run (10 February) needs to get the facts right. Clocks change the last weekend in October, not November. But why not move to Continental time (one hour ahead of UK all year)? Lighter evenings mean fewer road deaths, particularly among children, lower energy consumption helps the environment, the European business day is aligned, and more evening sport would help reduce obesity.

Steve Horsfield

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire