The JC

Letters to the editor, 29 December 2023

Peace prospects, UN bias and festive season


A general view shows a screen of votes during a United Nations General Assembly meeting

December 29, 2023 12:45

Peace prospects

The story of the foundation of Israel is fraught with misinterpretations on both sides, which have obscured the discourse ever since.

The situation following the tragedy of October 7 shows every sign of becoming entrenched in the views of both Israelis and Arabs, who are at risk of only hearing the news that they want to hear.

Of course Israel has to overcome Hamas’s military threat but in doing so it can’t destroy an idea any more than the idea of Zionism can be destroyed. As it is, the extinguishing of the Hamas military threat runs the risk of being replaced by upwards of two million homeless, impoverished, doubtless radicalised Palestinians on its doorstep.

The Israeli government, in its stated aims of being rid of Hamas, hasn’t indicated how it plans to resolve this dilemma, and until some satisfactory statement is made Israel is at risk of exchanging one major threat for an even more profound one.

Wars are easy to begin but difficult to end, as so many conflagrations since the Second World War have proved. Israel mustn’t fall into the trap enunciated by Donald Rumsfeld who famously said, “It’s easier to get into something than get out of it”, as was sadly proved by the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Israel had every right to be enraged by the murders and cruelties perpetrated in October but, despite what some of your commentators have said, that shouldn’t blind it to exploring how a solution could be reached with those Arab states with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Negotiating with an enemy is unpalatable at best but history has proved its necessity. After much soul-searching the UK explored peace not only with Sinn Fein in Ireland but with Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Archbishop Makarios in Cyprus. Agreed, none of them sought to destroy the UK, but in seeking to achieve their objectives many civilians and military personnel were killed or brutalised.

We have become used to somewhat tired polemics, such as the absence of a partner for peace, or that history has never demonstrated a defeated aggressor being rewarded with territorial enlargement.

If Israel is to prosper, as well as survive, both sides in this conflict need to have a dialogue, moderated perhaps by the other Arab states to which I’ve referred, and both need to moderate language and cease demonising each other.

Robert Bieber

Visiting research fellow, War Studies department,
King’s College London

​I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the apparent bias in the United Nations General Assembly’s stance on ceasefires, particularly when comparing its treatment of Israel and the situation in Afghanistan in 2002.

It is undeniable that the year 2002 was marked by intense global efforts to combat terrorism, with the US-led coalition undertaking operations in Afghanistan to address the threat posed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. During this period, the unfortunate reality was that civilian casualties occurred in the pursuit of restoring peace and security.

What raises eyebrows is the conspicuous absence of a UN General Assembly call for a ceasefire in Afghanistan despite the significant (much larger) number of Afghan civilian casualties resulting from the coalition’s operations.

The lack of a comparable response, when measured against the overwhelming calls for Israel to cease its operations, suggests a troubling double standard and a blatant bias against Israel, as we have constantly seen over the years.

Eli Cohen


​History will mark two key events that brought so much misery to Israel these days. One is Hamas’s takeover of Gaza and the other is the coming to power of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both were in bed together for the best part of the last two decades, both fed each other, both were the two sides of the same coin, both had a tacit love affair until one violated its part in that unwritten contract on 7/10. But if one may be eliminated soon, who will save the Jewish state from the other?

Dr Saul Zadka

London N2 0JX

Christmas thoughts

​Why have the mainstream media failed to mention how pro-Hamas rioting has been trying to stop and shut down Christmas celebrations around the world, especially in the US?

On the Boston Common Hamas supporters defaced a nativity scene and in Manhattan attacked the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting. Hamas supporters went on the rampage against “joy” at Christmas tree lightings around the country.

Is it because the Israelis are not carrying out these atrocities that they are not worth reporting?

Eric Silver

Edgware, Middx.

While there are mixed Jewish/non-Jewish families in North America that celebrate Christmas, Naomi Greenaway (Which kind of Christmas Jew are you? 22 December)  is presumably referring to Jewish families. As a Canadian Jew with roots in the UK, I have always been intrigued by the extent to which friends and relations, even those of traditional or even Orthodox practice, come together for a festive meal on Christmas Day. In my view, this reflects the basic insecurity of Jews in British society in contrast with Jews in Canada and the US where class and social distinctions have not been as significant a barrier to a fuller expression of self for Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities. Of course, Naomi’s article and my response take into account the pre-October 7 situation. None of us can know what will be in the years to come.

Martin Kalson

Eilat, Israel

Cary’s cut

There is an error in Josh Howie’s otherwise excellent review of Archie (8 December). Cary Grant believed he was Jewish, among other reasons, because he had been circumcised. However, it is incorrect to say that it was unusual for an Englishman born in 1904 to have had the operation.

In the Edwardian era, many English doctors came to believe in the medical benefits of circumcision. These benefits, it was believed, included counteracting or preventing a range of afflictions as diverse as phimosis, syphilis, neurosis, penile cancer and even, incredibly, bilharzia. In consequence, Gentile circumcision came to be increasingly practised and, in some medical institutions, it seems as if children were being circumcised almost as a matter of course. In 1906 alone, doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children circumcised 874 child patients.

It would be wonderful if it could be determined that Cary Grant was Jewish. Unfortunately, the fact that he was circumcised does not, of and by itself, cut it.

Daniel Appleby

Ealing W5

December 29, 2023 12:45

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