The suggestion by Zionist supporters that Gerald Scarfe's cartoon in The Sunday Times was anti-Semitic is a classic example of the abuse of the term. It drains the term of all meaning and, like the boy who cried wolf, desensitises people to anti-Semitism when it does rear its head.
Jennifer Lipman's grudging defence (Voices, 30 January) of Gerald Scarfe described the cartoon's portrayal of Palestinian blood cementing the Separation Wall as "profoundly offensive" because the intention of the Wall was to prevent suicide bombing. We disagree. Palestinian blood is being shed and the security pretext for the wall was a means of further confiscating Palestinian land. That was why the wall didn't follow the 1967 Green Line.
On 23 January, without warning or excuse, Israeli soldiers killed student Lobna Hannash, 21, outside al-Arroub Agricultural College. On 17 January a boy of 16, Saleh al-Amareen, was shot in the head at a refugee camp in Bethlehem. These are but two examples of why the cartoon was extremely pertinent.
Those who constantly raise the bogus cry of "anti-Semitism" whenever Israel is criticised are trading on the memory of the past oppression of Jews in order to justify the current oppression of the Palestinians.
As Jewish opponents of Zionism and racism we wish to declare that we do not believe that there was a trace of anti-Semitism in Gerald Scarfe's cartoon. Holocaust Memorial Day was indeed a fitting time to signal the evils of racism. As the Prophet Micah said: "They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity." (Micah, 3:10).
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
Professor Moshe Machover
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Brighton
The real problem with the Gerald Scarfe cartoon is that it perpetuates the "big lie" about the Jewish state.
Not the blood, not the hook-nose: that's what all his cartoons look like. It promotes the idea that Zionism/Israel/Netanyahu/Jews (take your pick) are singularly at fault for the plight of the Palestinians.
Israel is not blameless, but what about Palestinian division and rejectionism? The ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Arab world? The rabid anti-Semitism throughout the Middle East?
Last Monday, the day after the cartoon was published, 10 Palestinians were killed just as Scarfe had prophesied... but they were murdered in Syria, a conflict that has claimed more lives in two years than the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
That is why the cartoon could be described as anti-Semitic even though its author is not.
Norfolk embraces Romania
Three cheers for the Romanian and Bulgarian governments for taking a stand ("Worried about immigration? Then go and live in Romania", 1 February). Before taking a view about Europe, I urge people to go and see for themselves – these days that's not difficult; the Schengen area extends as far as the Russian border now.
Here in rural West Norfolk and the Fens we are now very cosmopolitan, with Poles, Portuguese, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Germans and many others living and working here. And as a former Hansa town, King's Lynn has historic ties with the Northern European and Baltic states.
My hair is cut by a Latvian, my car is very often washed by Lithuanians or Albanians, and when 18 months ago I wanted to learn Russian I had no problem finding a native Russian teacher who lives just a few streets away.
Last year I took a motorcycle trip to Russia, exploring Poland and the Baltic states along the way. It is all very civilised and very beautiful and everyone seems to work very hard. I had no hassle at any time. This year I hope I may have the opportunity to explore a little of Romania and Hungary, though whether I'll get to Bulgaria I'm not sure. But it's really not that far.
So do go and see for yourself. It's much more interesting than sitting on a beach, and ordinary people have the same concerns wherever you go. Or of course you could just come to west Norfolk.
Downham Market, Norfolk
Andrew Mcluskey (letter, 31 January) believes that those of us opposed to membership of the European Union believe in deep-laid conspiracies by "people abroad".
The people abroad have always been quite clear that their goal is an ever-closer union leading to a federal state. Most of our politicians have ignored that, denied it or believed that somehow the UK could quietly get the EU to drop it. It is those politicians who are to blame.
I and many others have never wanted to join the system that has become the EU. Edward Heath was either deluded or mendacious in his enthusiasm to join the EEC. I recall a television interview when he claimed the Europeans would welcome our entry to rectify the democratic deficit in their arrangements. On the same programme Lord Stokes of British Leyland claimed he could show the Germans how to build cars.
Can someone please explain to me how this slew of rules, regulations, red tape and general interference from faceless Brussels bureaucrats has harmed Germany's competitiveness?
Music breaks the dress code
I have followed with interest the response to Max Hole's fears that classical music's image does not help its cause (letters, 26 January). I agree with him.
I go to concerts that adhere to the established conventions of classical music concerts – formal conduct and dress, with a preponderance of the established "great" composers in the programme. I also go to classical concerts where various devices are used to break these conventions – the evening's programme is introduced, the performers speak to the audience before they perform, and mingle with them after. There is a bar in the corner and there is informal seating. The audience at these latter concerts is much younger than those at the former. The difference is very striking.
I have never understood why performers hardly ever speak to the audience, but are presented like performing seals. No one can deny that social practices are changing and there is less formality now. There is no reason why the world of classical music shouldn't allow itself to evolve in a similar way.
Biased question on Scots future
I am astonished at the wording chosen for the referendum question on Scottish independence: "Should Scotland be an independent county? Yes/No." Even without the loaded phrase "Do you agree...", it's still a biased question.
I would have expected the Electoral Commission to know, as any social researcher could tell them, that there is always a bias towards a "Yes" answer. In this case there are two choices, but only one of them is mentioned. If the question were expressed as "Should Scotland remain in the UK?", the bias would be the other way and the result might be very different.
When two alternatives are on offer, the only fair way to frame the question is to give equal weight to each one. An unbiased question would be: "Place a cross beside the statement you agree with: 1) Scotland should be an independent country; 2) Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom."
Stoke Gabriel, Devon
Jim White (letter, 1 February) feels that exiled Scots are entitled to a vote in the forthcoming independence referendum. As a Scot, living, like Mr White, in England, I disagree. Those most entitled to a say in Scotland's future are the people with most at stake – those actually living there, rather than those who have chosen to depart.
It is often said that there are many more Scots outside Scotland than inside. Who would decide which exiles were entitled to a vote, and how? Should the descendants of those exiled to Canada in the 19th-century Highland Clearances be consulted?
A pronoun for our time
Richard Garner (Chalk Talk, 31 January) suggests we need a gender-neutral pronoun, but we already have one. If somebody says "There's a phone call for you", I might reply "Ask them what they want". I have never said "Ask him or her what he or she wants", nor, I would guess, has he. This isn't some newspeak to be resisted, it's what people say.
I know it's the third-person plural, but we get along quite happily with the pronoun "you", which is second-person plural. I have never felt I should say. "There's a phone call for thee."
Figure it out
It is good to see that accountants understand not only figures but also the meaning of words. As reported by Donald Macintyre (1 February), John Dixon of Ernst and Young said: "I am incredibly proud of my firm – I think we make a fantastic contribution to our society." Which translates as "Our contribution to society is pure fantasy and you wouldn't believe me if I said I'm proud of it."
I wonder if John Smurthwaite (letter, 31 January) is wise to cite the Great Central Railway as a model for HS2. It was originally floated as the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire (MSL) Railway, and disillusioned investors dubbed it "Money Sunk & Lost". When, renamed Great Central (GC), it pulled into Marylebone, any hope of financial reward was, moaned those same shareholders, "Gone Completely".
How times change. Further to the letter from Jack McKenna (1 February) I attended a local cinema showing of Love Actually, and at the scene when the British Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, admonished the American President the whole audience cheered and clapped in support.
A bit nasty
Chris Grayling's defence of smacking of children and more unpleasant conditions for prisoners, added to the Conservative objections to equal rights for same-sex couples, is beyond parody –think goodness the Conservatives are no longer the "nasty party".
Thatcham, West BerkshireReuse content