Despite the violence, democracy is alive and well in...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 01, 2002

Despite the violence, democracy is alive and well in Israel

Neve Gordon gives a highly distorted and politicized view of one of the most vibrant democracies in the world and the only one in the Middle East ("Israel must face threat from within," Opinion*Commentary, Jan. 23).

Contrary to Mr. Gordon's statements, the debates in Israel's media about social policy, military actions and relations with the Palestinians are still as hot as ever, as anyone who logs on to the Web sites of that country's newspapers will readily see.

And the fact that police and army abuses are openly investigated by citizen groups, with considerable media attention, confirms that political discourse in Israel is open and dynamic, no matter how painful the subject.

The opinions of the political right that Mr. Gordon dislikes have been expressed openly in Israel for many years. For better or worse, they have now gained currency in a democratic process of give and take, thanks in no small part to the actions of the Palestinian Authority and its allies.

Mr. Gordon's disapproval does not justify his charge of "fascism."

Robert J. Bloch

Baltimore

That the United States - during two world wars and in its battle against terrorism - has sometimes had to resort to defensive measures that make civil libertarians wince does not mean that fascism was, or is, on the horizon.

Similarly, when Israel, a country that has not known a day of peace in its history, takes strong measures designed to stop the killing of innocents by political and religious extremists, it does not portend that Israeli democracy is threatened, despite the contentions of Neve Gordon.

Israelis live in a terrible neighborhood, a place where fanaticism, irrationality and hate are dominant motifs of political life. In such conditions, democracies are obligated to do what they have to to survive.

Israel has done just that, and remains the only place in the Middle East where democracy thrives, Muslims, Christians and Jews are allowed to practice their religions without state interference and citizens regularly use the ballot, not the bullet, to express political differences.

America is not prepared to sacrifice its security to appease naive critics - neither is Israel. Thank heaven.

Howard E. Friedman

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Ending Israel's occupation would be good for everyone

Neve Gordon's column "Israel must face threat from within" (Opinion* Commentary Jan. 23) about the irrationality of Israeli public opinion on peace and war was very illuminating.

An Israeli friend told me that, on a recent trip back home, she sensed that most Israelis knew that ending the occupation of Palestinian land was a necessary condition for peace. A cab driver who expressed this very thought to her also said that he had voted for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and would vote for him again.

A Palestinian lawyer friend told me of a similar irrationality from the other side: A client of his who committed a terrorist act against Israeli civilians admitted such acts would only make the Palestinian goal of ending occupation more distant.

Popular sentiment on both sides is far from enlightened or benevolent, and neither side is intrinsically more virtuous than the other. However, the Israelis are vastly more powerful and have far greater control of the situation.

While it should be very clear to Palestinians that they cannot achieve their goals through military means, it should also be clear to Israel (and the United States) that the Palestinians will never submit to Israeli occupation.

Ending the occupation is good for everybody - as much for Israeli Jews as for Palestinian Arabs.

Philip Farah

Vienna, Va.

Resolve the differences clouding racing's future

As one of an estimated 15,000 Marylanders whose livelihood is derived from the Maryland racing industry, I implore the governor and the members of the Maryland Racing Commission to set aside their personal feelings and vendettas against the Maryland Jockey Club, and make an attempt to resolve the longstanding differences that continue to cloud the future of Maryland racing ("Rancor in racing reaches new low," Jan. 24).

Morris T. Murray

Baltimore

MSPAP critic deserves credit for his honesty

Hooray for Phil Greenfield ("Cutting through the MSPAP spin," Opinion* Commentary, Jan. 28).

Such honesty is not condoned by the Maryland State Department of Education, nor by the school districts. I hope he can continue to teach at Annapolis High School without penalty for his frankness.

Congratulations also to The Sun for publishing this column despite the paper's support of the MSPAP.

Stephen H. Knox

Baltimore

Candidate Kaufman proposes `taking profits out of drugs'

Considering the long, laudatory article Michael Olesker wrote about my candidacy for the 7th Congressional District ("Candidate speaks truth about war on drugs," Jan. 17), I really don't have much to complain about.

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