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July 16, 2010

Exchange Promotes Understanding

Anita Epstein’s June 9 article “Why I Cannot Forgive Germany” (online-exclusive) relates a very tragic past. She feels the way she feels and, as far as I am concerned, that closes the book on her personal experience during the Holocaust. One cannot argue nor should one even comment on it. It is tragic and one can only sympathize and try to understand her pain.

Epstein relates an experience with a young member of a German delegation that had been brought to the United States as part of an American Jewish Committee exchange program. For those who might not know anything or much about his particular program a little explanation is in order.

The exchange program AJC has with Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation has been in existence for 30 years. The purpose of the program is not reconciliation but, rather, enhanced understanding. Hundreds of AJC leaders and young German professionals have been able to come away from their experience with a much better idea of how their counterparts live. “Letting bygones be bygones” is the antithesis of what the exchange sponsors aim for. Truth, insight and awareness are the goals both AJC and KAF have as the underpinning of the exchange.

Over and above the personal goals of both sponsors, AJC has its own particular ones — which are well known to the KAF. AJC looks to Jewish interests, and Jewish interests are best served by having positive relations with Germany. It is, indeed, Israel’s best friend in Europe and, as Epstein points out, its second-largest trading partner after the United States. In addition, Germany now has a Jewish community of 250,000, the third-largest in Europe. Germany continues to undertake its responsibilities by paying restitution and seeing to it that its Jewish community lives in peace and security. The way it handles anti-Semitism is a template for other nations in Europe and around the world. What more could we ask of them?

I have no argument with Epstein. Her feelings and thoughts focusing on the past are her own. However, for the Jewish people and for Israel, the future is what I worry about. The relationship with Germany and its people is critical to Jewish interests and the AJC-KAF exchange has proven to be a positive link in that relationship. I cannot speak for the Germans who have participated in the exchange. However, I have personally met hundreds of them. There are all kinds and varieties. Many remind me of my own siblings and children. In the end they are just people, and getting to know them and vice versa is what the exchange is all about.

Eugene DuBow
Senior Advisor
American Jewish Committee
South Nyack, N.Y.

Without Question, the Blockade Was Legal,

Your June 25 editorial “The Flotilla Probe” laments the fact that the Israeli inquiry into the Gaza flotilla bloodshed will not examine “the underlying legality… of the blockade that the raid sought to enforce.”

Blockades are a time-honored, legal measure of warfare, designed to prevent weapons and war materials from entering a territory with which one is at war, as is indisputably the case with Israel and Hamas-run Gaza. International law recognizes the embargo of goods to countries at war and requires neutral shipping to follow the directions of ships enforcing a blockade. Remember that the Kennedy administration put Cuba under a naval quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Common sense and international law alike affirm a state’s right to close off delivery of weapons to a belligerent. Israel was well within its rights to search and inspect any vessel approaching Gaza, not least those run by pro-Palestinian activists seeking to assist a terrorist regime like Hamas that has genocidal intentions against Jews everywhere.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.

A Judeo-Inuit Blade

On Dorothy Lipovenko’s article on hakmeser kitchen knives (“Giving New Meaning to ‘Less Is More,’” June 18): These are readily available from Alaskan suppliers under the Inuit name ulu. I had never heard of them before traveling to Anchorage, but they’re in every tourist gift shop there — and we love ours!

David Kazdan
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

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