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Spectator readers respond to recent articles

28 January 2009

12:00 AM

28 January 2009

12:00 AM

Israel fuels anti-Semitism

Sir: I am a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and have participated in every one of the national demonstrations against Israel’s brutal onslaught against Gaza. I have never heard the slogans ‘Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas’ and ‘Death to the Jews’ that Douglas Davis (‘The terrible warning of a Holocaust survivor’, 24 January) claims are being chanted on these marches. I know that the stewards have strict orders to clamp down on any expression of anti-Semitism.

Like the majority of the demonstrators, I am not a supporter of Hamas. But though the Hamas Charter is indeed appallingly anti-Semitic, it played no part in Hamas’s election campaign, and the best way to ensure that Hamas repudiates it is to draw it into a genuine peace process. Hamas has already recognised Israel’s de facto right to exist by saying it is willing to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and has offered Israel a long-lasting hudna, or truce. Hamas expressed willingness to extend the recent ceasefire (which Israel broke) if Israel would agree to lift the blockade.

The recent Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians (two thirds of the dead were civilians) has only increased Hamas’s popularity and is not likely to make them any less anti-Semitic. Similarly, though any expression of anti-Semitism is of course to be condemned, it is inevitable that Israel’s actions have fuelled Muslim anti-Semitism, which is mainly political in origin, since Islam, unlike Christianity, does not have a tradition of hatred of Jews. Israel’s atrocities also give encouragement to the re-emergence of long-dormant European Christian anti-Semitism.

If Jews really want to reduce anti-Semitism, they should speak out to change Israel’s destructive and self-destructive policies.

Deborah Maccoby
London E5

The EU is toothless

Sir: Fraser Nelson is wrong to say that Brussels ‘ties the hands of British prime ministers’ (Politics, 24 January). The ‘reality of British governance’ is that Brussels has no substantive powers at all, only procedural ones, many written on bits of paper by long-dead politicians. It can neither take our money nor arrest our citizens without our collaboration, and if Parliament decides to exercise its constitutional right not to be bound by previous parliaments, all well and good. In fact, dismemberment of the procedures began back in 1993 when the German constitutional court declared its supremacy over the European Court of Justice as a condition of signing the Maastricht Treaty. The heavens did not fall in, nor did they when last month Britain defied a European Court of Human Rights ruling on deporting two murder suspects to Iraq, citing ‘exceptional circumstances’.

A Cameron policy of full support for free trade and travel and the useful intergovernmental organisations to which the EU is a party would command support from all but the nuttiest fringes of the argument. But Cameron should put an end to the gold-plating of EU regulations and arbitrary ‘fines’ levied by bureaucrats who have forgotten that they are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.

John Parfitt
Painswick, Gloucestershire

What we won’t do

Sir: Charles Moore was wholly inaccurate in his latest comments about TV Licensing (The Spectator’s Notes, 24 January). TV Licensing never uses bailiffs to recover unpaid licence fees and in no circumstances would we confiscate an individual’s possessions. The courts may use bailiffs to enforce unpaid fines, but this is not a matter for TV Licensing.

If we believe a household may be watching TV illegally, one of our inquiry officers may visit the property to establish whether or not a licence is required, but they would only enter the premises with the owner’s permission. In some cases, where access is not granted, a search warrant may be sought to gain access, and the inquiry officer would be accompanied by police officers.

Ian Fannon
TV Licensing
London WC2

A popular misquote

Sir: It is extraordinary that Paul Johnson (And another thing, 17 January) of all people should misquote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Most of us learnt at school that Coleridge did not say ‘And not a drop to drink’.

Brian Willis
Bicton, Western Australia

Eco-toffs help the cause

Sir: The government may have backed big business and its lopsided economic case for a third runway and new terminal at Heathrow airport, but New Labour is still in thrall to wealth, celebrity and the rarefied world of the cultural elite. So the presence of Champagne Swampies (‘Meet the new eco-toffs: Champagne Swampies’, 24 January) at campaigns against environmentally damaging infrastructure projects is welcome. They could make the difference that guarantees that the runway will never be built.

The third runway announcement has united a potent mix of objectors in a common cause. Before Christmas, the Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, called for a popular movement for action on climate change. Well, now he’s got one whether he likes it or not.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
London WC1

Weighing in

Sir: Rod Liddle won’t find the ‘no-kids-for-fatties’ rule on our website because the rule does not exist (Liddle Britain, 17 January).

There is no upper BMI limit in adoption; however, prospective adopters do need to have the health and vigour necessary to meet the needs of their adoptive child until he or she is a young adult. This is to ensure that children who have already been separated from their birth parents will have the best chance of their adoptive parents being there for them throughout childhood.

We do encourage people with disabilities to apply, but this isn’t a form of positive discrimination. Good adopter assessment isn’t about discrimination or arbitrary rules. It’s about finding people who can meet the needs of children waiting for adoption.

David Holmes
Chief Executive, British Association for Adoption & Fostering
London EC1

Dangerous humour

Sir: The writing of Deborah Ross makes me laugh out loud. This can prove dangerous, especially on a crowded commuter train. I was once escorted from a train at Penge, of all places, by two men in white coats. Now I am forced to read her words at midnight in the centre of a large field by the light of a flickering candle.

Godfrey Dodds
Croydon, Surrey

Lobster’s last words

Sir: In answer to Charles Moore’s query (The Spectator’s Notes, 24 January), Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines a pawk as a small lobster. The word pawky, meaning drily humorous or sardonic, originated when one particular lobster was heard to comment, ‘Have you checked the temperature of that water with your elbow?’

Dr Andrew Mason
Norton, Bury St Edmunds

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