LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Israelis suspect that attack on Lebanon may be part of a larger conspiracy
Re: "Explaining Israel's actions in Lebanon", Opinion, July 16.
Israeli Ambassador Yael Rubinstein's article seeks to justify Israel's attack on Lebanon (and, lest we forget, on Gaza). It is of course an official Israeli government statement designed to "explain" the nightmare the Israeli defence forces are inflicting on the Lebanese population.
But many Israelis disagree completely with that view of the present conflict and its root causes. Peace activist Uri Avnery published an analysis on July 15 entitled "The Real Aim" that argues cogently that the real reason for the present carnage is to "change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government".
"That was the aim of Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it," Avnery writes.
"As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US ... That's the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda."
Avnery's full analysis is available online at: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1152991173.
This huge military operation has been ready to go for a long time, just waiting for an "incident" to launch it. That is clear to virtually all Israelis. It is being sold to the Israeli and international public as an operation to "rescue" two captured soldiers and to "destroy Hezbollah". But the brutal campaign was itself engineered to provoke Hezbollah into firing a barrage of rockets into northern Israel. That border has been quiet for a long time. The incursion in Gaza provoked Hezbollah to show hands-on solidarity with the Palestinians under siege there. That too is clear to most Israelis.
Once again, our fellow Israelis are the victims. And scores of totally innocent, simple Lebanese have been killed, and hundreds of thousands terrorised. Refugees fleeing Beirut are speaking of "catastrophic haphazard bombing". To the south, the entire population of Gaza is plunged into a humanitarian crisis, their plight now vanished from international attention under the barrage of the "attack on Hezbollah".
Ominously, a secondary aim of this bloodshed may be to restore the Israeli army's injured pride. It has suffered a severe blow from the military actions of Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. And the new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, untried in military matters, may be trying to demonstrate to an Israeli electorate and to the generals who run Israel that he and his new defence minister Peretz are "tough".
Many Israeli citizens will be protesting in Tel Aviv against this insanity unleashed by their own government. The Thai public deserves to know there is vigorous debate in Israel on how to achieve peace and stop the current spiral of violence, which some believe is a prelude to an attack by Washington and our own Israeli defence forces on Iran.
That ominous prospect of escalation may have been echoed in Ambassador Rubinstein's closing statements: "A moment of truth is rapidly approaching for all those in the region and the international community who seek peace and stability for the Middle East ... It is time for the defenders of peace to fight back."
Ignoring facts will not bring peace to the Middle East
Re: "Explaining Israel's actions in Lebanon", Opinion, July 16.
I notice Israeli Ambassador Yael Rubinstein conveniently left the word "occupation" out of his 800-plus-word attempt to exonerate Israel of responsibility for their abhorrent aggression in Lebanon since last week. Had it been included he would have found it more difficult to describe the current attacks as "unprovoked".
She also trots out the old chestnut that Israel is "the only democracy in the Middle East". This is a myth. Israel is one of many democracies in the Middle East. Democracies in the region include Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Cyprus, Yemen, partially in Oman and most recently Iraq. Even the Palestinians hold democratic elections in the occupied territories although, not being a sovereign nation, they cannot be included.
Some of these examples are less than perfect, but considering that Israel has had a de facto border from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley for well over 30 years now, which includes 3.5 million indigenous people who cannot vote, the Israeli democracy is far from perfect itself.
It may be convenient for Israel to ignore these facts that the rest of the world are fully cognisant of, but it will do nothing to bring peace and stability to the whole region and not just to the state of Israel itself, although one doubts that is Israel's true goal.
Getting rid of tainted EC would reassure investors
Re: "Elections will be held on October 15", News, July 16.
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says investor confidence is fading and seeks to cure that with another election. But has he considered that a prime reason for the lack of confidence is that - as shown by the court verdict on the April Fool polls - the Election Commission (EC) is incapable of organising free and fair voting? Not only that, three commissioners have yet to show accountability by resigning. Why would investors flock to where the government has the trappings of democracy (elections, for example), but not the substance thereof?
Also, our court's tying the party-dissolution cases together hardly raises investor confidence. Such a move makes as much legal sense as trying all murder cases as a group, and many fund managers will think that the court is deciding the cases on political grounds, not legal.
Thaksin hit the nail on the head when he said that "What's important is that there is confidence in Thailand's democracy. The judicial system … must work straightforwardly."
I call on him, for once, to put his actions where his mouth is. Have the Thai Rak Thai join the other parties in calling for the election commissioners to resign and for the court to consider each case on its own merits, announcing each verdict before beginning the next case. As the EC and judiciary are allegedly beyond Thai Rak Thai's influence, he should postpone new polls until these steps have been taken.
Doing the job right is much, much more important to democracy and investment than having another April Fool's joke pulled on the nation.
Poll commissioners are making matters worse
Politics in Thailand have reached a critical stage. The best way out of this mess is for the Election Commission to resign. The commissioners are no longer needed to carry out their duties and responsibilities.
The situation will get worse if the current election commissioners hang on to their jobs for one big reason: their reputation is at the opposite end of the scale to Khunying Jaruvan Maintaka's.
People who leaked Thaksin's letters should be punished
Regarding the letter to US President George W Bush, it's ironic that I'm defending caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin because I've been one of the biggest belly-achers about his tenure - years before it became fashionable to bash his policies and style.
Letters between heads of state are private domain, unless they discuss serious matters of national security and in which case they should be channelled through the Foreign Ministry.
Having such letters aired in public is bad diplomacy, not least because it betrays the trust and frankness of other world leaders. After the latest breach, what foreign leader can rest assured that their letters to the Thai prime minister will be in confidence?
Even caretaker leaders deserve a semblance of privacy in their correspondence. Whoever leaked the letters should be disciplined.
More democracy may not be the solution for South
Re: "Islamic scholar puts hope in achieving a multi-religious society", Opinion, July 16.
The scholar in question is a lecturer in Islamic studies at a university in England. His area of expertise and his field of research comprise medieval Islamic philosophy, particularly having to do with the period following the works of the Persian philosopher Ibn Sina. It is a highly specialised and obscure field of study and is not likely to have much relevance to the insurgency in southern Thailand. It would be inaccurate to represent this individual as an expert on the nature of the complex situation in the South based on these qualifications.
As for democracy, most radical Islamic elements in democratic Muslim countries see it as the law of men and they wish to replace it with Sharia, or the law of God. They are apparently willing to commit murder and mayhem to do so. Democracy may not solve the problem in southern Thailand if that is the case over there as well.
For want of Bt20,000, tourists forced to part with Bt200
I recently travelled to Poipet with a couple of my friends - we were all from the Philippines except for the driver and the guide. There wasn't any problem with the immigration post when leaving Thailand, but on our return we were each told to show Bt20,000 as travel funds and a return ticket to the Philippines.
Of course none of us had brought that much money or our tickets with us. In the end, we each had to pay Bt200 to the officials.
Blocked fire exit alarms customer but not staff
I enjoy visiting Siam Paragon very much and often go there for the restaurants, cinemas and bowling.
While bowling there on Friday I noticed that a fire exit had been completely blocked by boxes and catering equipment. I asked a staff member why and was told not to worry about it. When I persisted he assured me that I could still squeeze through if I wanted to smoke a cigarette (which I didn't).
I asked what would happen if there was a fire, and he said people could still pass through the exit if they needed to. Astonished, I asked him whether several hundred people would be able to exit through that door at the same time in case of a fire and he condescendingly smiled and told me of course, all the while almost laughing at a customer for even bringing up a subject like this.
A picture is worth a thousand words so I took one of the blocked exit - you can even see the employee laughing at me.
It is not difficult to find reports of people who have been killed due to blocked fire exits in Thai newspapers. It's not something I like to see but it seems to happen quite frequently.