Letters, July 8, 2011

Community must go on shechita offensive

I FEAR that our leaders have based the campaign to protect shechita on an incorrect approach. As your article “Kosher meat under the grill” (AJN 01/07) puts it: “In line with the review, the law currently gives an exemption to shochets from stunning cattle and from stunning sheep both before and after slaughter.”

We should not be seeking an exemption from the general stunning requirements because of religious toleration, which is taken by the non-Jewish public as implying that it is inferior from the animal suffering perspective. On the contrary, they should emphasise the advantages of shechita and the cruelty involved in the frequent cases of mis-stunning. While, under laboratory conditions, stunning might be effective and not cause any pain or distress to the animal, this is most definitely not the case in the typical abattoir situation.

The charity Animal Aid recently filmed inside eight randomly chosen (non-Jewish) British slaughterhouses and found evidence of cruelty in seven of them where animals were kicked, slapped, stamped on, picked up by their fleece and ears, and often improperly stunned before going to the knife while still conscious.

As readers will know, shechita requires the cut of a razor-sharp knife. Even the slightest nick in the knife that might catch on the throat tissues renders the process invalid and the shochet is obliged to check his knife regularly to ensure that no nicks are present. It causes such a rapid loss of blood supply to the brain that the animal becomes unconscious before it has time to feel the cut itself. Those who have cut themselves with, for example, a sheet of paper, will know that they only became aware of the wound when they saw the bleeding, not at the time of the incision.

All slaughter methods are aesthetically unappealing and this forms the basis for the anti-shechita agitation by animal rights campaigners. In view of Animal Aid’s findings, however, we should make the point that those, even non-Jews, who are concerned about the humane treatment of animals should make a point of only purchasing the meat of animals that have undergone shechita.

Martin Stern
Salford, UK

Flotilla whingers should think of Shalit

WHEN we who are good-of-heart voluntarily and by choice put ourselves in dangerous positions, it’s not the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s role to “ensure our safety”, nor is it our government’s responsibility to “physically intervene”, as was stated on ABC online (30/06).

When our free will and humanitarian beliefs take us to Palestine (where I go regularly) or on the Gaza flotilla (where four Australians are now), we choose mindfully to put ourselves in harm’s way. Our free choice, our heart-felt beliefs, our responsibility.

To then turn on our government and demand extrajudicial protection makes no sense.

It’s five excruciatingly long years – 1831 tortuous days – since Gilad Shalit has been held incommunicado, yet we fear the physical and mental abuse of a few days’ incarceration. Both are frightening; both violate international humanitarian law; still I wonder – where’s our perspective? How good-of-heart and honourable are we really, when we demand our own protection and remain deathly silent when someone else’s humanitarian rights are significantly impinged?

As we do our humanitarian work and make our humanitarian statements supporting Palestinians, let’s keep Gilad Shalit in our hearts, too. He, too, is a tragic victim of the Israeli-Palestinian deadly embrace.

Judy Bamberger
O’Connor, ACT

Armchair generals should stop NIF attacks

JUST how Zionist is the New Israel Fund (NIF)? The Israeli Declaration of Independence pledges to uphold the rights of its citizens regardless of religion, race or gender and guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

NIF at present invests in Israeli society through more than 100 organisations run by the citizens of Israel. Current Israeli programs include those which promote civil marriage, the place of Reform and Conservative Judaism, women’s rights and implementing mandatory preschool education for Arab children. During her recent Australian visit, NIF president Naomi Chazan went to Marrickville to speak out against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), calling BDS immoral. You can’t get more Zionist than that.

Criticism of the NIF takes on a surrealistic air when armchair generals such as Paul Winter (AJN 01/07) aren’t satisfied with one out of the six arguments used by Naomi Chazan against BDS (“BDS is ineffective”). He then excels himself by relying on information which has been known for some time to be incorrect. I find it difficult to believe that Mr Winter hasn’t read recent AJN coverage that NIF is opposed to and does not fund organisations which engage in activities that delegitimise Israel, especially those that support BDS. It seems it is easier to engage in name-calling than research.

Mr Winter also indulges in scapegoating in an attempt to blame NIF for the Goldstone Report. In reality, the Goldstone Report relied on the bias of its authors to reach its absolutely untenable conclusion, falsely alleging that the IDF deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza. In fact, this is exactly what Richard Goldstone himself now concedes. The overwhelming bulk of sources relied on by the Goldstone Report came from either non-Israeli or official Israeli government sources – not organisations funded by NIF. One NIF-funded organisation whose work was referred to in the Goldstone Report, the human rights group B’Tselem, was praised in 2010 by the IDF Advocate-General for its reliability and cooperation with the IDF.

By all means, we should as a community have a lively conversation about what is best for Israel – as only Jews can. We should continue our Jewish communal traditions of controversy and debate. It has been said before: we are all in this together.

Irving Wallach
Bronte, NSW

Saluting a true ambassador for Israel

OVER recent weeks, so many supporters of Naomi Chazan have described her as an “ambassador for Israel’’, notwithstanding her controversial views, statements and actions  which many of her critics describe as unhelpful against the worldwide delegitimisation of Israel campaign .

If these Jewish supporters are looking for a female ambassador-type for Israel and someone to put on a pedestal, they should look no further than Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.  Darshan-Leitner, who is fighting (free of charge) for the rights of the victims and families of terrorist attacks taking on governments, banks and financial institutions that finance the Islamist terror organisations, has so far successfully distributed nearly $100 million to her clients and has more than $600 million in terror assets frozen by courts throughout the world.

Her Israel Law Centre Shurat Ha Din’s latest coup has been to take on the international insurance companies, including Lloyds of London, that insure the flotilla vessels. Without marine insurance, ships are not allowed to set sail. Many of these ships in the flotilla are now currently stuck in ports unable to leave because of her actions.

Having just returned from Israel spending one week with Darshan-Leitner on a special mission, I was amazed at the immense respect for her from politicians on all sides and the military hierarchy.

There are more than enough critics of Israel in Israel and abroad. Darshan-Leitner is someone we should encourage and be proud of.

Michael Burd
Toorak, Vic

An insult to the memory of victims

THE recent report that the ruins of a  bunker in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, which was used by Hitler during the Nazis war of annihilation in Eastern Europe is to be turned into a museum come tourist attraction (The Australian, 03/04) is extremely disturbing.

This museum is apparently planning to offer visitors the opportunity to try on Nazi uniforms and pose for photographs in front of swastika flag.

Some of the more sane and sensitive local leaders have expressed well-justified concerns that the museum

is not only in the worst possible taste but will become “a magnet for neo-Nazis”.

Horrendous crimes were committed throughout Ukraine by the Nazis and their local collaborators, indeed Babi- Yar, a ravine in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, where in September 1941 some 33,771 Jewish men, women and children were murdered has come to stand as a symbol of the Holocaust.

That anyone, anywhere would seek to romanticise and/or promote the Nazis and their evil deeds is below contempt –  that professional museum curators in a country soaked in the blood of innocent Jews and other victims of the Nazis should so err beggars belief. What on earth are they thinking?

Dr Bill Anderson,
Surrey Hills, Vic