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Thursday 11 June 2009
Letters: US 'Jewish lobby'
Supposed influence of the US 'Jewish lobby'
The article (5 June) by your Washington correspondent, David Usborne, concerning President Obama's Cairo speech, was subtitled, "White House shows willingness to ignore US Jewish lobby by risking confrontation with Netanyahu over Palestinian statehood". The opening paragraph of the article further stated that Obama's "chiding" of Benjamin Netanyahu "risked the wrath of the Jewish lobby in the US". Usborne later claimed that "Mr Obama showed he is willing, perhaps more than any US president before him, to ignore the Jewish lobby by getting firm with Israel".
There is no point in arguing here about the real or imaginary power (or legitimacy) of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Nevertheless, by using the term "Jewish lobby", Usborne's analysis is very dangerously worded and resonant with old-style antisemitic conspiracy theory.
It is dangerous nonsense to use the term "Jewish lobby" as if it is synonymous with whatever pro-Netanyahu, and pro-Israeli settler lobbies exist in Washington; just as it is dangerous nonsense to imply that Obama's predecessors have somehow all been dominated by the "Jewish lobby" (remember Suez? remember Nixon? Bush snr?).
An estimated 78 per cent of American Jews voted for Obama, and studies have repeatedly shown that American Jews favour a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Director of Communications, CST, London NW4
In your report of the US President's speech in Cairo, you reported that "Barack Obama risked the wrath of the Jewish lobby in the US".
I worked with the USAF on ballistic missiles in Los Angeles in 1958-1960. My wife and I found that there seemed to be a strong antisemitic feeling in the USA (outside Hollywood). When, in 2003, we went to a reunion in Washington DC with some of those (very senior) retired officers, my wife asked them directly why the US allowed such a small and unpopular minority to have such a strong influence on foreign policy.
We were both much surprised to be told that the pro-Israel lobby was strongest in the Southern "Bible Belt". There, in pursuit of "Rapture" and an early entry to heaven, those Christians hoped to help the takeover of the whole of Palestine by Jews. That part of the USA was very strongly Republican; so there had been no hope that a Republican President like Bush would do other than support Israel to the full.
It is not a Jewish lobby that is strongest in support of Israel; it is a Republican Christian one.
Air Marshal Sir Reginald E W Harland
Bury St Edmund's, Suffolk
BNP made to look the victim
The members of Unite Against Fascism who broke up the BNP's press conference on College Green have achieved something one might have thought impossible: they have yielded the moral high ground to Nick Griffin.
The BNP is an odious party with odious values but the ugly scenes in which eggs were thrown and Griffin literally chased off the Green will allow them to present themselves as democrats victimised by undemocratic thugs. The BNP exploits a persecution complex among many of its supporters and that complex will only be reinforced by Tuesday's scenes.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Why on earth did Unite Against Fascism pelt Nick Griffin with eggs? Wasn't he democratically elected as an MEP for the North-west of England? Obviously, UAF believes that the ordinary working man, or woman, is too stupid to be entrusted with the vote.
The BNP are the party acknowledging the elephant in the room – uncontrolled immigration. Love them or loathe them, they are addressing perhaps the main concern of many ordinary voters.
Having seen how demonstrators obstruct Nick Griffin and pelt him with eggs I am beginning to think that there are two breeds of fascist: Fascists and Anti-Fascists.
The BNP have gained two seats in Europe mainly due to the very low turnout on polling day. This is an aberration and should never have happened.
I believe a lot of people do not vote because they cannot be bothered and are just plain lazy. Why is it not law in the UK for citizens to have to vote, and if they decide they do not agree with any of the choices then there can be a box for abstentions. This would at least mean that everyone has to carry out their civic duty and we would get an honest reflection on how the country feels.
We cannot let the BNP get a hold in this country and must find a way to prevent it – citizens must do their duty and vote.
The European election results were truly terrible for Labour and unsurprising. I spent the day of the European election knocking on doors in my council ward. Previously I had been canvassing in my potential Parliamentary constituency. I am personally sorry for not doing more in this election and I believe that Labour did not do enough in Yorkshire and Humberside.
My grandfather fought during the Second World War, for freedom from fascism. I will redouble my efforts to ensure that the BNP are defeated at the next European elections in Yorkshire. I hope the rest of Labour does the same.
Councillor James Alexander
Prospective Labour MP for York Outer, York
Probation system does not work
I do agree with Jane Barry (letter, 6 June) that "Jack Straw's apology is not enough", in relation to the mistakes made whereby Sonnex and Farmer were able to murder the French students Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo. No apology is worth anything unless the person responsible explains what steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence of the disaster.
There has been talk that 100 new probation officers will be found for London in the next two years: the shortfall is, we in the Campaign for the Reinvigoration of the Probation Service calculate, about 400. But even that number would not make the system workable.
The system says that prisoners are released from prison halfway through their sentence, and then must continue their prison sentence in the community. So the unfortunate ex-probation officers, now called "offender managers", are supposed to supervise and monitor the offenders with the same efficiency as the prison officer behind prison walls. These "offender managers" have the absolute right in law to recall to prison any offender on this "prison sentence in the community" for any reason whatsoever. So, if in doubt, the staff of all grades normally play safe and recall an offender at the slightest excuse.
The probation service should never have agreed to this role, but the officers were told they had no choice – accept it or leave. Many chose to leave; hence our inexperienced service of today.
Mr Straw should go to the root cause of the problem and abolish the National Offender Management Service, which is nothing more or less than a US-style "department of corrections".
When an aircraft cannot be flown
It is, indeed, speed which makes an aircraft fly ("The riddle of Flight AF447", 10 June). But unreliable or conflicting indications of speed need not necessarily render an aircraft unflyable.
The speed at which it flies is determined by two factors: pitch attitude (nose high or level or low) and engine thrust setting. It is possible therefore to achieve a speed within a safe range by setting the appropriate pitch attitude and engine thrust, assuming that this data is available to the crew.
If equipment failures remove attitude and thrust indications then aircraft control would be very difficult, especially at night when there is no visual horizon against which to assess attitude in pitch and roll (wings level or banked).
Retired Boeing 757 captain
Voting reform first, then an election
Many people, including yourselves, are calling for an immediate general election because of the distrust of Parliament after the various expenses scandals. This is before there is any serious attempt at changing the workings of Parliament or the voting system, although there are suggestions that a simultaneous referendum be held on electoral reform.
If we have an election under first-past-the-post, almost certainly the Tories will get a majority. David Cameron will immediately proclaim that their first priority is to sort out the economy and they'll be far too busy to do anything about electoral reform, regardless of the referendum result. Once they're in they'll just wait for the hoo-ha to die down and carry on as before; we voters will have four or five years to forget about it, after all.
If the Labour party wants to salvage anything from an election, it has to change the voting system beforehand, otherwise they could be end up on a level with the SNP or Plaid Cymru.
I have voted in every Parliamentary election for almost 40 years but I have now had enough of this charade where a minuscule minority of voters determine who governs. Until we get a fairer voting system (and by that I exclude the party-controlled system used in European elections) I shall be spoiling my ballot paper by writing "None of these until PR" across it. If enough people agree with me, spoiled papers could win quite a few seats.
The local election results will have put to bed all this silly speculation about an early general election (you, sir, as guilty of this as anyone). There is now a definite light at the end of the economic tunnel, and the longer it goes on, the brighter it will become, more or less guaranteeing May 2010 as the date.
This, coupled with the historic fact that on the actual election day, even the most unpopular governments get a bit more support than the latest polls suggest (remember John Major?), produces a distinct possibility of Cameron leading a hung Parliament with the Liberals holding the balance. Many would see this as a good result, as it would put a lot of influence into the hands of the universally respected Vince Cable.
Call me cynical, but when a governing party and its leader have posted its worst electoral results since 1908, it is not surprising that they decide to change the electoral system.
Prince for today
The debate about this generation's greatest portrayal of the Prince of Denmark (letter, 8 June) has unaccountably ignored the stand-out candidate. Moody, indecisive, unable to communicate clearly with those around him; Gordon Brown is Hamlet.
Brompton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire
Not too good
I hate to be profane but could Guy Keleny possibly be guilty of a grammatical error? He writes ("Errors and Omissions", 6 June), "the officials at the Department of Health are not preparing for a scenario, but for an actual event". What verb applies to the last four words? To get the verb to hit the right object, I recommend moving the "not" so that it reads "the officials at the DoH are preparing not for a scenario but for an actual event".
Margaret Adams (letter, June 9) wants a new party that is ethical, socialist and green. What's wrong with the old one? The Green Party is certainly green (hence the name) and ethical (Caroline Lucas was recently voted Ethical Politician of the Year). We aren't specifically socialist, but most of our policies would sit easily in the manifesto of a party that was. How about it, Margaret?
Enfield Green Party
Nick Danan is right (letter, 9 June). I cringe at most American attempts to improve the English language, but "guys" is an exception which I readily employ. The nearest equivalent of UK origin, "chaps" is mildly patronising, carrying the tone of an officer addressing the ranks. There is no real equivalent to "guys", which implies both friendliness and equality of status. Perhaps it is time for Sir and Madam to be relegated to the dustbin of history. I trust you guys at the Independent editorial desk agree with me.
With added tyranny
Having inadvertently purchased from Tesco a packet of muesli with added sugar, I returned to exchange it for one with no added salt or sugar. The difference in price was an extra 11p for no added salt or sugar. It reminded me of my stay in a Romanian hotel during communist times. Two poached eggs for breakfast were standard; if I asked for one I was surcharged.
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