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July 23, 2004

Shoah Funds Played Major Role for Israel

Although Israel did not have a formal voice in the Claims Conference’s negotiations for compensation for Holocaust survivors, Israel conducted simultaneous and coordinated negotiations with West Germany (“Netanyahu Seen Angling to Control Shoah Funds,” July 16).

Under the 1952 Luxembourg Agreements, Israel received 3 billion Deutschmarks in goods and services, known as “Shilumim,” from West Germany.

According to Pinhas Lavon, then a Cabinet minister, the West German funds exceeded all the capital that Israel had received since its founding from all foreign sources, including investments, gifts, loans and the sale of Israel Bonds. Some 1,400 initiatives in Israel — transport, power, port, agriculture and communications — received equipment and machinery with funds generated by the Shilumim.

The impact of the West German payments on Israel’s economic development cannot be overstated.

Marilyn Henry

Teaneck, N.J.

The writer is the author of the monograph “Fifty Years of Holocaust Compensation” in the 2002 American Jewish Year Book.

Early Needs of America Encouraged Migration

America was an exceptional, unique society that was already in place in 1654 when the first Jewish immigrants came to her shores and continued to be welcoming to Jewish immigrants until 1924 (“Religious Revival,” July 16).

From the very beginning there was a need for Caucasian immigrants who could work for themselves and help balance the demographic imbalance of black slaves and Indians in the population. There was the evolution of the nonestablishmentarianism clause of the Constitution, which, based upon the Framers’ knowledge of the European religious experience, refused to give primacy of one religion over another. With vast amounts of land to be had, there was, early on, the elimination of the property tax for Caucasian males as a voting qualification and eventually the national broadening of the franchise for male and female Caucasians. In addition, there was the emergence of mandatory free public school attendance in every state and locality, which created opportunity for Jewish immigrants to advance based upon learning and merit.

All these factors — religious, public school, voting and the need for self-sufficient Caucasian workers — are the main contributors to the successful Jewish experience during the last 350 years in America. On occasion — such as was the case with the Leo Frank lynching, General Grant’s Union Order Number 11, and the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan and antisemites such as Henry Ford — the success of our American Jewish experience was mitigated. However, these were merely blips on the upward path to success.

Teddy Zabb

New Rochelle, N.Y.

Assassination Worries Only Based on Media

Opinion columnist Yossi Alpher reports allegations that some Israelis are threatening violence against supporters of unilateral Israeli retreat from Gaza (“The Specter of Another Political Murder,” July 16). Is there really such a threat, or are supporters of withdrawal using the claims of a threat in order to de-legitimize, demonize and intimidate those who have legitimate concerns about the dangers of a Gaza pullout?

The Jerusalem Post reports in its July 6 issue: “No concrete evidence exists [of a plan] to harm the Prime Minister or any other senior officials, according to security sources quoted on Army radio.” Regarding statements by Police Minister Tzahi Hanegbi about a possible threat, the Post notes: “Sources close to Hanegbi said his comments arose from an assessment of the tense atmosphere and were not based on intelligence reports.” Moreover, former Shin Bet General Security Services head Carmi Gillon, who has joined in the claims that there is a right-wing threat, has acknowledged that “as opposed to 1995, when specific intelligence existed,” the “main sources” for the current claims are “analysis of media reports.”

Morton Klein

National President

Zionist Organization of America

New York, N.Y.

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