- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

A different perspective

The article Abraham H. Foxman disputed (“Israel blamed for USS Liberty attack,” World, Jan. 13) in his letter Monday (“Israel clear of intent in Liberty incident”) did not mislead when it reflected the consensus of the State Department conference that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 was blameworthy.

It is Mr. Foxman who is misleading when he asserts that the conference “contradicts the U.S. government position” on the matter of the intentionality of the attack. The only sense in which the incident was “an accident” is the U.S. position, contained in the declaration of Capt. Ward Boston, senior counsel to the USS Liberty Naval Court of Inquiry, that Adm. Isaac Kidd, president of that court, was ordered in 1967 by President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to conclude that the attack was a case of mistaken identity.

Mr. Foxman is also disingenuous when he claims, “The U.S. Navy, CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Agency, among others, all have released reports finding no evidence that Israel attacked the Liberty knowing it was an American vessel.” In fact, both the CIA and NSA have issued reports describing a warning given by Israel to the U.S. government the night before the attack that the ship would be attacked the next day if it were not removed from its area of operations.

Moreover, Mr. Foxman knows well that there has never been an official investigation that has taken testimony from the surviving crew. Not one.

Reading Mr. Foxman’s letter and noticing his title (national director, Anti-Defamation League), I found myself wondering who was being defamed here. Was it Israel’s air force, which carried out the attack? Or was it the senior U.S. officials who effected the cover-up all these years? And who was defaming? Was it the surviving crew members, who want answers any normal human being would want in the circumstances?

Mr. Foxman is, I would suggest, operating outside his organization’s mandate.

STEPHEN GREEN

Berlin, Vt.

Rights and representation

In his Wednesday letter, “Voting in D.C.,” Chris Carbott writes, “If D.C. voters think [Howard] Dean and [Al] Sharpton are the best-qualified candidates for president, and with such cavalier attitudes toward voting, it is no wonder there is no great desire by the rest of the nation” to change the District’s nonvoting and non-represented status in Congress.

I respectfully submit that the author is unfamiliar with democratic principles and practice. Just because people disagree with one’s choices as to the best candidates for a position is not a reason to keep people from voting — that is not democracy. Likewise, “cavalier attitudes,” be they of many or of a few, are not a reason to keep anyone — let alone half a million people in the capital of an ostensibly democratic country — disenfranchised. (In addition, look at voter turnout for this country, and you’ll see that the majority of citizens have “cavalier attitudes” toward voting. I suppose that means most Americans should be disenfranchised.)

I also note that the author of the letter is from Bowie, Md. — a state represented in Congress. How convenient.

VALERIE SILENSKY-LOWE

Washington

Donation dos

I would like to respond to the Dec. 27 article “Americans volunteering in higher numbers” (Business). I cannot emphasize enough the importance of all contributions made to nonprofit organizations. According to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans, more than half felt volunteering their time was more important than donating their money, while 22 percent said donating their money was more important. Who says we need to make a distinction?

Last year at the Washington Opera, we raised $18.3 million — up from half that two years before — covering 55 percent of the company’s 2003 operating budget. Of this, just 16 percent came from corporate, foundation and government sources. The rest came from private donors. Donations help keep ticket prices relatively affordable. Many people are surprised to learn that ticket sales to one of our productions account for less than half of the cost of the production. Opera is the most costly of the performing arts because it includes so many elements: soloists,chorus,orchestra, scenery and often dance.

On the other hand, donated time deserves parity to donated money. In 2002, volunteers donated 13,677 hours to the Washington Opera — equivalent to a financial contribution of $219,596 — but with all the services volunteers provide, their contributions truly are incalculable.

In many ways, the distinction between giving time and giving money is unhelpful and even specious. It is not important whether people are donating their time or their money to nonprofit organizations such as the Washington Opera; what is important is that they have the vision and character to give of themselves. Without the hundreds of wonderful individuals who freely give of their time and money, performances would not go on at our organizationoratnonprofits around the world.

RICHARD RUSSELL

Director of development

The Washington Opera

Washington

Indian secularism: A model for Asia

Since September 11, world attention rightly has focused on the dangers of Islamic extremism. Paul Marshall is worried that Hindu extremists and their so-called allies in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are encouraging religious violence (“Make the tough decisions,” Op-Ed, Jan. 14). But the world has never seen, nor will it see, Hindu suicide bombers, Hindu holy warriors hijacking planes, or the Indian equivalent of the ayatollahs.

The BJP governs India in a coalition with a number of smaller parties — not all of which share Hinduism’s historical religious tolerance. Israel also has a coalition government. It would be outrageously unfair to attribute the words and deeds of some of his coalition partners to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Marshall indicts India and the BJP by citing incidents of religious extremism. He would have us believe that attacks on religious minorities in India are a matter of state policy — or state acquiescence. Nothing is further from the truth.

The murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his sons were horrific, as were subsequent reports of the burning down of two Hindu temples in Australia. Is the Australian government responsible for those atrocities? The murderers of Mr. Staines and his sons were brought to justice. Twelve of the accused were convicted and sentenced. The main accused has been sentenced to death.

Mr. Marshall misrepresents facts. The reported rape of four nuns by “Hindu extremists” in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, is a case in point. Francois Gautier, a French journalist, interviewed the nuns. He reported that the nuns and the local bishop told him that a gang that “had nothing to do with religion” had committed the rapes. In another case, Hindus supposedlyburneddownchurchesinAndhra Pradesh, but Hindu culpability has been disproved.

The Gujarat riots and the loss of innocent lives, Muslim and Hindu, are not among Indian democracy’s finest hours and must be condemned. However, Mr. Marshall, while quoting the Indian chief justice, failed to note that court’s ruling, in response to petitions filed by various citizens groups, demanding that the Gujarat courts establish a registry for reporting such cases and that they be prosecuted actively. Many of the trials have resulted in lengthy prison sentences.

Mr. Marshall did not note that Diwali, Eid and Christmas all are federal holidays in India. Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and other non-Hindus serve in the highest levels of government, the armed services and the police. India’s president is a Muslim. Defense Minister George Fernandes is a Christian. Both enjoy the support and confidence of the BJP. At the dawn of the new Christian millennium in 2000, when many of the non-Christian countries of Asia, including China, refused to allow the pope to visit, it was the BJP-led Indian government that welcomed him.

Like other multiethnic, multireligious societies, India has its problems, but to portray it as a simmering cauldron of sectarian hatred and violence, as Mr. Marshall does, is a grave injustice to an American ally.

SUE GHOSH STRICKLETT

U.S. India Political Action Committee

Washington

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