Israel cannot pick and choose which UN resolutions it respects
Sir: Mary Dejevsky can't have it both ways ("Israel has an entitlement to defend its security, and a UN resolution on its side", 9 August). Implementation of UN resolutions is not optional, yet this is precisely the Israelis' approach.
It is the height of hypocrisy to call for R1559 to be implemented (because it is what you want) while being in violation of numerous resolutions yourself, notably R242. It is not, therefore, a question of having a UN resolution on your "side" but of meeting international obligations that you have signed up to as, amongst other things, a member of the UN.
BEXHILL ON SEA, EAST SUSSEX
Sir: Contrary to what some of your readers say ("Big powers have let Middle East down", 8 August) the current crisis in the Middle East does indeed exemplify the UN's inadequacies.
UNSC resolution 1559 calls for the disarming of Hizbollah and the extension of Lebanese sovereignty throughout the country. Had this been implemented, Israel would not have had a Iranian-backed terrorist organisation sitting on its northern border, and Lebanon would have been able to become a fully functioning democracy. The UN made no efforts to enforce the resolution.
Whatever one's views of the nature of Israel's response, that it had to respond at all is a consequence of the UN's impotence. Let us hope that a new resolution, getting a ceasefire in place, finally does what 1559 intended and gets Hizbollah out of southern Lebanon.
Sir: Mary Dejevsky states that, in seeking now to unilaterally destroy Hizbollah, Israel has the backing of UNSC Resolution 1559, and goes on to say that Israel has the same right as any other state to defend its borders. Is this the same state that has had dozens of UNSC resolutions passed against it, including the three relating to the fundamental rights of the Palestinians (numbers 194, 242 and 338) which it has disregarded for decades? And which borders? Is it the same state that is building a separation wall on Palestinian land?
It is not Israel's right to exist that many of us are questioning but why she never seems to ask whether military conquest and destruction are really the best way to secure it in the long term. Both Ms Dejevsky and Lucy Mandelstam (letter, 9 August) must surely know that the Arab League accepted the Saudi plan of 2002, which offered peace to Israel as long as it withdrew to the pre-1967 borders. This would have secured Israel 78 per cent of Israel/Palestine - surely enough? Somewhat later, the "Geneva" plan provided a basis for a negotiated peace. But Israel refused to consider these and continued on the path of conquest, covering the West Bank with settlements, roads and the wall.
If Israel wants peace, recognition and future stability, I suggest she choose negotiation with the Palestinians on the basis of justice and fairness. The extremists would then fade away over time, rather than being strengthened as now.
DR MIKE BARNES
Terror scare is an ace card for Blair
Sir: When I heard a Metropolitan Police spokesman announce that "they were planning to commit mass-murder on an unimaginable scale" I thought for a moment that war crimes indictments had at last been served on Messrs Bush and Blair. But, no; it was just another one of Scotland Yard's "international terror plots" that had been allegedly uncovered after months of patient and intrepid undercover work.
"Something has happened," we are being told by hyperventilating "security experts" on every UK TV channel. Yes, it certainly has. This sudden revelation of a Muslim terrorist threat to turn the sunny summer skies over the Atlantic into an airborne slaughterhouse comes at an extremely convenient moment for the PM, just when he is facing rising criticism and even revolt in his party and the country over his handling of the Middle East crisis and his inflexible alignment with the US in the "war on terror".
Calls are being made to recall Parliament to debate the situation, and Scotland Yard's timing has suddenly handed Tony Blair an ace card. One can see him now as he stands righteous and defiant by the Despatch Box and scorns what are left of his critics: "Look, you can all see how absolutely essential it is for us to stand firm in the face of terror."
Sir: It can be no coincidence that this plot has been uncovered in this country involving UK citizens targeting aircraft flying to the US. Perhaps now people here will realise that this is the price we are all having to pay for the disastrous foreign policy of our government. We all know that Tony Bush and George Blair are joined at the hip.
The perception is - and not just among British muslims - that US policy in the Middle East is totally skewed in favour of Israel and against the Palestinians. Rather than winning the war on terror, all we are doing is storing up anger and resentment for the future.
The chickens are coming home to roost.
SCHOOL AYCLIFFE, CO DURHAM
Sir: When one reads reports of the Home Secretary criticising judges "for weighing terrorists' rights over public safety" ("Reid attacks judges", 10 August) one is deeply thankful for a legal system that can restrain government ministers who believe that we may need to "modify some of our freedoms" (that is, curtail our human rights) because of the fight against terrorism.
It is certainly the terrorists whom we should fear in the short term, but the long-term threat is from paranoid governments for which the need to be seen to be doing something, and thus to be eligible for re-election, is all-important.
I cannot believe that the unearthing of a major terrorist plot just happened to occur the day after Dr Reid gave a much-publicised anti-terrorism speech. It has all the signs of being part of a strategy to soften up the British public into accepting yet more moves in the direction of a police state.
Sir: Am I the only person who is reminded of the "45 minutes" claim?
Remember the dodgy intelligence which brought us Forest Gate? Intelligence claimed that there was a biological bomb. There was nothing.
I fly a lot and I have wasted hours going through security. Is our airport security actually without any use whatsoever? Is this one of those propaganda stories we have to endure on a regular basis from this government? Is this the preparation for the attack on Iran?
And where is our Prime Minister? On the beach.
DR SIEGLINDE DLABAL
Sir: Why are so few members of the Labour Party brave enough to point the finger at Mr Blair, to make the obvious causal link between the deteriorating security situation here and that in the Middle East?
Parliament must be recalled immediately, and the party which I voted for might just regain some of the respect it has lost over the past few years, by sending Mr Blair on a permanent holiday, and start firmly dissociating itself from the dangerous policies of the USA.
Sir: As I watch events unfold at Heathrow Airport, I reflect generally upon the rise of extremist activity, and the way in which, at best, it makes it difficult for normal people to go about their normal lives and, at worst, blows them to smithereens.
It is time for the apologists and the apathetic to wake up. Anybody could have been on one of those planes. I didn't notice passengers being scanned for their political viewpoint before being allowed to book tickets.
Is that what it takes for people to learn to stop apologising and stand up for themselves? When they have been blown to pieces? Isn't that a little late? When will we realise that the fine line between tolerance and submission isn't quite where we thought it was?
To try and explain, let alone defend, the actions of wannabe terrorists is both pointless and dangerous. We blame ourselves, as if we have done something wrong, which has given them no alternative other than to express their frustration by random killing of innocent people.
No amount of bending over backwards can satisfy the blood-lust of minds this far gone. We are dealing with people with different values and morals from our own. They have no regard for the sanctity of human life. Given the chance, it seems that they would kill a man in cold blood before he even gets the chance to tell them about how he really digs their cause, and how he even went to the protest rally last month.
Sir: I have often wondered why, even on short haul flights in Europe lasting less than two hours, people should need to carry on "hand" luggage which should rightly be stored in the hold.
One needs only the very basics such as might be carried in a woman's handbag. Reading matter, wallet, pen, spectacles case, travel documents is about all an adult needs when travelling short distances. So why do the airlines allow passengers to bring into the cabin large suitcases, heavy back packs and so on?
Storage of these items slows up transfer at boarding and landing and if they are now also a security risk, it is time that the rules changed.
Speed limits mean relaxed drivers
Sir: I recently spent three weeks touring the US and covered almost 3,000 miles. The 3.5 litre Buick we hired (not diesel) returned very close to 40 miles per gallon over this period. The explanation was simple: an engine barely ticking over and a strictly enforced 65mph speed limit (The Big Question, 9 August).
US highway authorities make no apologies for the speed limit - it reduces road deaths and saves energy. Of course there is a little persuasion: not the pocket-money fines we have, but a couple of months' wages. And the American motorist is much more relaxed than the stressed out English time-slave.
For once, we could learn a thing or two from the Americans.
Greening of Latin American cities
Sir: Your piece on Cuba's organic revolution (9 August) brought back happy memories of a visit to Venezuela in January. One of the first sights that greet you in the city centre of Caracas is a huge organic farm, sandwiched between the Hilton Hotel and the motorway. There are thousands of these in the country. Despite being the world's fifth largest oil exporter the Venezuelans are keen to diversify and green their economy because they are well aware that petroleum reserves will eventually be exhausted.
One suspects that George Bush's motives in wishing to remove both the Cuban and Venezuelan governments is based not upon what they get wrong but upon what they get right. The environmental awareness shown by these poor countries puts us to shame.
DR DEREK WALL
'Happy' drugs: we need to know more
Sir: Johann Hari's thoughtful piece "Do I really need this artificial happiness?" (10 August) raises a very important point. Psychiatric drugs alleviate symptoms, but we don't actually know when, how or whether they help us to "accept the things we can't change, change those we can and learn to tell the difference".
Most of the evidence on this (including Mr Hari's) is from personal accounts; these are invaluable - but only as a starting point. They are no substitute for large, detailed studies of psychological and social abilities under treatment. We need such studies to find out how to use, and how to stop, psychiatric drugs to empower our psyche as well as alleviate suffering.
DR MICHAEL MOUTOUSSIS
SPECIALIST REGISTRAR IN PSYCHOTHERAPY, TOLWORTH HOSPITAL SURBITON, SURREY
English party symbol
Sir: David Cameron, the Tory leader, will be up a gum tree if he goes ahead with his plan to have an oak tree as the party's logo to replace the torch. His actions will further split the British nation, because the oak is recognised as the King of the English forest.
BRIDLINGTON, EAST YORKSHIRE
Sir: It does seem paradoxical that the Game Conservancy Trust (letter, 10 August) supports grouse shooting. The real scandal lies not in the low numbers of curlew and golden plover in certain parts of the country, but in the GCT's arbitrary preferences of one species over another, their wholehearted support for the elimination of "predators"and their defence of bloodsports.
A tax on 4x4s
Sir: There is a solution to the expected outcry from rural 4x4 owners when realistic taxes are imposed on these anti- social vehicles (letter, 9 August). Let those who have a legitimate need for an off-road vehicle - gamekeepers, conservation workers, forestry managers - accept the onus of making a claim for exemption. This is analogous to the system followed in the days of dog licences, when owners of pet dogs paid an annual licence fee while those whose livelihood involved working dogs could apply for exemption on grounds of need.
Trek to the supermarket
Sir: I have news for N F Edwards (letter, 9 August). Taking your car to the supermarket for 25 years to save plastic bags will not help to save the planet. Living a mere mile from our nearest supermarket, I walk there, with three reusable bags. The only carbon dioxide emitted is from my heavy breathing, and it keeps me fit.
MICHAEL K BALDWIN
Letter of support
Sir: Where can I send my letter of support to the Tory lord who is threatening to have Cooper Brown's work visa cancelled?
HIGH WYCOMBE, BUCKINGHAMSHIREReuse content