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February 20, 2009

The ‘Hard Decisions’ Israel Needs To Make

Abraham Foxman writes that the Obama administration should “create new realities that will give Israelis incentives to consider making hard decisions” (“Beyond Evenhandedness,” February 13).

He lists these realities as making “Palestinian leaders behave differently, providing mechanisms to reduce the ability of Hamas to make trouble, and creating some confidence that the international community can play a constructive role in preventing violence.” Presumably by this he means violence by Palestinians directed at Israel.

Yet when it comes to making hard decisions, will Israelis ask themselves why they adhere to an ideology that is one part Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall” against the Palestinian population and another part Herzl’s “rampart” against the uncivilized barbarians of Asia?

Time will tell which runs deeper, the vibrant democracy with a robust civil society, or the obsession with the strength and vengefulness of the Jewish fist.

Alan Goldstein
Plainfield, N.J.

Talk To Hamas? Read Its Charter Instead

Amjad Atallah of the New America Foundation favors dealing with Hamas, despite its irrevocable and implacable religious dedication to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews (“Playing Favorites in Palestine,” February 6).

Let us not forget these passages from the Hamas charter:

“Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”

“Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave.”

“The time [of judgment] will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O’ Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

Atallah argues that Hamas won an election and that we should deal with the freely chosen representatives of the Palestinians. But democracy means more than free elections. A democracy must also have equality before the law, gender equality and the freedoms guaranteed by our First Amendment — none of which Gaza under Hamas enjoys. Hamas was and remains a large gang of religious terrorists, and there is no reason why we should deal with it.

Carl Goldberg
Tempe, Ariz.

Amjad Atallah argues that America should support a policy of speaking to all elected Palestinian representatives, meaning Hamas as well as Fatah.

Apparently, he fails to understand that there is no Israeli or American obligation to deal with a group calling for genocide against Jews (Article 7 of the Hamas charter) and Israel’s destruction (Article 15 of the Hamas charter) just because Palestinians are partial to the idea.

May I remind him that the Nazis were also democratically elected, but empowering them through concessions was not moral or responsible or wise — and it led to disaster.

Alan A. Mazurek
Great Neck, N.Y.

Did Dickens Realize Fagin Was a Ganif ?

Your February 6 article “On the London Stage, New Depiction of Fagin Revives an Old Stereotype” repeats the contention that Charles Dickens based Fagin’s character “on a real-life underworld figure, Isaac ‘Ikey’ Solomon, who was thought to have recruited children to act as pickpockets.”

But how did Dickens come up with the name Fagin?

Perhaps the answer is that he knew a little Yiddish.

Dickens is known for giving his characters names that capture their essence, onomatopoetically and otherwise.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Yiddish infiltrated the argots of the criminal underworld. For example, in German slang, “mezuzah” meant prostitute, because both hung around in doorways.

Allow me to propose that the name Fagin is an anagram of ganif, the Yiddish word for “thief.”

Stanley Cohen
Baltimore, Md.


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