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The Spectator

Letters to the Editor | 5 August 2006

Readers respond to articles recently published in <span style="font-style: italic;">The Spectator</span>

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Hezbollah and genocide

From Lord Kalms

Sir: William Hague’s usual good sense has deserted him. Criticising Israel for being disproportionate without serious consideration of the alternatives merely mouths the buzzwords of the ignorant armchair critic.

Think again, William, for whom you speak. How do you deal with the Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, who is committed to Israel’s total destruction (not a single Jew to remain alive in Israel) and who rains thousands of rockets on Israel, keeping the population in shelters, devastating industry, kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers within Israeli territory?

Hezbollah combines a unique and dangerous formula: a terrorist organisation ensconced within a large area of the independent but incompetent nation state of Lebanon. With whom do you speak, let alone negotiate? Proportionality in common terminology might mean tit for tat. Do you, William, really believe this to be a serious possibility or a practical response to Hezbollah’s genocide policy? A tragedy is unfolding; the outcome is life or death to the Israeli nation state. William, your comments are not merely unhelpful; they are downright dangerous. As on other issues, is the Conservative party changing its ground?

Stanley Kalms

House of Lords, London SW1

Nightmare of a Soviet Spain

From Christopher John

Sir: Denis MacShane’s article ‘We should have intervened in Spain’ (29 July) is written with sweeping, headline-grabbing statements about Franco’s murderous regime. He completely and most conveniently omitted to mention the atrocities committed by his ‘goodies’, the Republicans, and the very considerable and pervasive presence of high-ranking Soviet military and political personnel in their command structures and fighting units. It is estimated that at least 10,000 priests and nuns were massacred by the Republicans and countless churches were wilfully destroyed, leaving no doubt as to their ultimate aim of creating an atheist, communist state — a fate suffered in 1945 by Poland, the country of origin of Mr MacShane’s own father (Jan Matyjaszek). Should the Republicans have been victorious, the consequences for Europe of a Soviet Spain in the south and the Red Army sweeping down from the north as the second world war drew to a close would no doubt have been much to Stalin’s liking.

Christopher John

Valencia, Spain

Nothing special

From George Steiner

Sir: The special relationship is a British invention (‘Sorry: there is no special relationship’, 29 July). It is based on the false idea that Britain has so much in common with the US that there must be an SR. The US sees no benefit to an SR with a nation that has gone ‘wobbly’ on everything. Firstly, Britain is relatively impoverished in spite of its pretensions. Its GDP is a fifth of Japan’s, for half the population. Secondly, Britain’s acceptance of Islamist radicals, its disappearing industrial capacity, its inability to deal with its immigration, its crime, its transportation and its education makes it a nation no one would want any sort of relationship with.

George Steiner

Quebec, Canada

Move UN to Jerusalem

From Sir Sydney Giffard

Sir: When a lull is achieved in Arab–Israel, and the peace process is resumed, would it not be right to consider the possibility of moving the UN headquarters from New York to the vicinity of Jerusalem? Difficulties and obstacles are obvious; but if Jerusalem were to become the focus of international political activity, and consequently of very substantial new financial interests and construction projects, it is hard to see who would be the losers in the civilised world.

The idea of Jerusalem as an international city was abandoned long ago. It will remain the capital of Israel, and if peace was achieved East Jerusalem could come to be the capital of a Palestinian state. The prospect of endless work for the people, and of money flowing into the whole area, would stimulate the peace process. Peace would not just be given a chance by the UN; it would be given an attainable objective, both material and symbolic. Determined governments could enable the UN to effect a transformation — both of its own and of the region’s character — of historic significance and epic grandeur.

Sydney Giffard

Shaftesbury, Dorset

Think Baldwin

From James Strachan

Sir: I do wish that Norman Tebbit would recognise that his very forthright views of politics (‘Cameron is alienating his voters’, 29 July) only really worked from 1978 to 1986 — when the electors were fully aware that the nation was near collapse and would accept rough medicine.

We are now in the more normal position where David Cameron and others — including myself as a junior foot soldier — must talk to, persuade and woo the electorate. We Conservatives must develop a new political language that persuades electors that there are problems, and that a future Conservative government could address these problems without setting the nation at odds. Think Stanley Baldwin.

James Strachan


Wheels of inspiration

From Christopher Pinsent

Sir: Jeremy Lewis’s letter about Elgar’s cycling about Worcestershire (22 July) reminded me that at Charterhouse school there is an Ordnance Survey map on which the young Ralph Vaughan Williams recorded his favourite bicycle rides around the Surrey countryside. Perhaps there’s another article for Paul Johnson in the connection between cycling and composing great music.

Christopher Pinsent

Chiddingfold, Surrey