October 9, 2009
Defending Democracy In Honduras
The rule of law and democracy must be restored in Honduras (“Jewish Groups Take Sides in Honduran Strife,” October 2).
Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is correct in his statement that, regardless of how we view a deposed leader, coups d’etat are unacceptable and the United States should oppose such actions.
American Jewish World Service is particularly concerned about the impact the recent coup is having on civil society in Honduras. We partner closely with a number of grassroots organizations working to alleviate the profound poverty that exists in communities throughout the country. We are receiving reports of daily arrests and assaults as well as numerous reports of murder and torture of individuals who oppose Roberto Micheletti, the head of the de facto regime. Many of our colleagues in Honduras fear for their lives and the safety of their families, especially since Micheletti recently declared a 45-day suspension of constitutional guarantees and ordered a shutdown of major opposition media outlets.
We urge the Jewish community to stand alongside Honduran civil society and the international community in condemning the coup regime’s abuses and in calling for a return to democracy in that country.
Ruth W. Messinger
American Jewish World Service
New York, N.Y.
Pensions Firm Didn’t Divest From Company
Contrary to your September 25 article “Palestinian-Led Movement to Boycott Israel Is Gaining Support,” TIAA-CREF did not sell our holdings in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. after receiving a letter from some investors on September 11 urging a boycott of the company.
We have not owned shares in Africa-Israel since June, when they were sold automatically after Africa-Israel fell out of an emerging markets index tracked by one of our accounts. We are not divesting from holdings in Israel, and continue to invest in companies there and around the world.
Vice President, Corporate Communications
New York, N.Y.
The Truth About Italy And the Holocaust
In her September 25 interview with the Forward, Elizabeth Bettina rightly seeks to honor the courage and humanity of those who went against the mainstream and helped Jews during the Nazi-Fascist persecutions (“In Italy, ‘Bad Times, Good People’”).
The interview, however, omits essential historical facts and misrepresents the context in which this happened. We wish to correct the record, not only as a matter of accuracy, but also out of respect to both the Jewish victims of Fascist persecution and the bravery of those who helped Jews.
For instance, regarding Italian Jews, Bettina incorrectly states that “the racial laws took away many of their civil liberties… but they were not deported.” Meanwhile, your interviewer is wrong to assert that “Mussolini, Hitler’s strongest ally in the war, refused to help carry out the extermination of the Jews.”
In fact, in 1938 foreign-born Jews residing in Italy were stripped of their citizenship and asked to leave, and Italian Jews were deprived of the most fundamental civil and human rights. Italian Jews found themselves trapped and forced into very difficult life conditions. Some 3,000 Jews who were able to leave fled the country.
Mussolini imposed the census of the Jews first in 1930, following the “Patti Lateranensi” (the 1929 agreement between the Kingdom of Italy represented by Mussolini and the Vatican), and then in 1938 with the promulgation of the racial laws and the establishment of the Ministry of the Race. The registry of the Jews enabled the persecution that brought the isolation, spoliation, arrest and final deportation to Auschwitz of 8,600 Jews starting in October 1943, of whom few survived. As documented by 60 years of research of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan and mostly available online (www.cdec.it), almost half of the arrests were carried out by the Italian police and with the help of Italian informants.
It is also inaccurate to state that Italy fell under German occupation following the uprising of Italians against Mussolini. Mussolini was removed from power by King Vittorio Emanuele III, and, in September 1943, founded the Italian Social Republic in the north of Italy. Mussolini was followed by hundreds of thousands of Italians who efficiently carried out the anti-Jewish policies of the republic. Between 1943 and 1945 Fossoli (near Modena) functioned as transit camp to Auschwitz, and a death camp was established in downtown Trieste.
This kind of misrepresentation of history offends the memory of all the men, women and children who were murdered in the extermination camps, and of those who risked their lives to save their neighbors. And it ultimately compromises our ability to understand the past.
Centro Primo Levi
New York, N.Y.
The letter is co-signed by six members of the Centro Primo Levi’s board of directors.
On Maternity Leave, America May Be Alone
Your September 18 editorial “Family Values” states: “But this is America, one of only two industrialized nations in the world without paid maternity leave (the other is Australia).”
Your statement about Australia will no longer be true as of January 1, 2011. The Australian government has announced that it will introduce a comprehensive paid parental leave scheme for new parents who are the primary care-givers of a child born or adopted on or after that date.
Starting January 1, 2011, the United States will be the only industrialized nation in the world without paid maternity leave unless Congress passes legislation to provide for such leave effective before then.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes
The writer is a co-founder the National Organization for Women.