Clare Short misguided in criticism of Israel
Dear Editor, Further to the anti-Israel outburst by Clare Short, may I point out that International law states that if an aggressor loses the resultant war, the intended victim may retain captured territory.
Thus the former Soviet Union retained East Prussia, expelling 15 million inhabitants, and Russia holds it to this day.
The Arab states ignored United Nation resolutions at the time of the formation of Israel in 1947, as they did in 1967 when Egypt, Jordan and Syria - with populations about 15 times that of Israel - combined forces to eliminate Israel from the map.
After the victory of Israel in the Six Day War, the country was entitled to the whole of the territory gained, which included Sinai, Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights. Polls showed that 92 to 95 per cent of people in this country supported Israel at that time.
The Golan Heights were used by Syria from 1948-67 to shell the Israeli settlements in the valley below, and they have forfeited the right to recover them. Israel voluntarily relinquished Sinai for peace with Egypt.
I strongly believe it is the ultimate objective of the Arab states to destroy Israel so that they can benefit by having the advantages of a modern state without working for it. This is clearly shown by the occupation of southern Lebanon by Hizbollah, after Israel's withdrawal, and by Israel's withdrawal from prosperous horticultural settlements in the Gaza strip.
Peace could have occurred after the Oslo accords, but Palestinian leader Arafat started his Intifada against Israel, which included the suicide bombings, involving the murder of several thousand innocent people. The Israel government has therefore a perfect right to protect its people by the construction of the much criticised wall.
The term Palestinian only came into general use after 1967. From 1948 until 1967, Judea and Samaria (West Bank) were part of Jordan, while the Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt. There were no objections to this by the Palestinians.
Historically the Arab inhabitants of geographical Palestine were part of the old Turkish Empire and ruled from Damascus, and never considered themselves a nationality. The numbers were very much smaller than those who refer to themselves today to be Palestinians.
My suggestion for a cure for the problem is that the unoccupied parts of the West Bank revert to being a part of Jordan, and not a separate state, but with the same degree of freedom as Scotland has from Britain. We are dealing with areas of land the size of a few British counties.
The Gaza strip has virtually become a separate mini-state. It is best that it stays that way, but it should not be allowed any military force, and should operate under international supervision with heavy penalties for inhabitants who use rocket attacks against Israel.
Israel has built a modern western state over 60 years, and is virtually corruption free. It is well suited to be part of the European Union, and should be invited to join.
Israel should be used as an example to most African and Asian developing countries, and should not be criticised by the likes of Clare Short.
HENRY WARSON, Solihull
How we can break New Street impasse
Dear Editor, Your recent New Street correspondent was on the right lines in that not only are the existing platforms, tracks and approaches to New Street Station unable to absorb a 150 per cent increase in passenger capacity, but they cannot even meet today's needs.
Why? Simply that New Street Station and its approaches occupy almost the same footprint today as they did in the 18th century and cannot be expanded to provide the necessary extra platforms to accommodate both trains and passengers.
Consequently, spending money on improving the waiting time for passengers will be major waste of money.
The answer may lie with a new Grand Central Station. However, is such a concept being thwarted by Birmingham City Council, which appears to be adopting a similar head-in-the-sand attitude towards it as its 18th century predecessors did to what was originally known as Navigation Street Station.
Are there certain councillors and senior officials whose only interest is in the long-overdue Eastside development, and is it blinkering them to the overall needs of the city, the West Midlands and the country?
A new Grand Central Station could provide sufficient rail capacity until the 22nd century and perhaps even beyond that, which is something New Street Station can never achieve.
It would not only be at the crossroads of a national and commuter rail network, which includes two separate alternative direct links to London, but it could be the hub for commuters transferring directly to local trains, buses, coaches and taxis, thereby giving passengers an easy transfer point without having to make their way across the city as they do now. Surely, such a development would even now attract European Community Funding.
It would not detract from the Eastside development, but enhance its value by providing business and residents with easy access to rail, bus and coach travel to almost anywhere in Britain, while careful design would enable pedestrians to flow uninterrupted to and from the city centre.
Upon completion, a new station could be built adjacent to Navigation Street, with direct escalator access to Broad Street and Victoria Square, with Navigation Street itself opening a route to the area encompassing the Alexandra, Hippodrome and Old Rep Theatres.
Such a station could also continue to provide access to New Street, Corporation Street and Smallbrook Ringway via any new development of the New Street Station site.
Many will be aware, however, that not only has a similar argument been going on for years with no resolution, but will continue to do so while the different groups continue to pursue their own agendas.
So, what is to be done if the impasse is to be broken?
One way forward would be to create a quango, The West Midlands Gateway Development Corporation, with powers similar to that of the former Black Country Development Corporation. The first task would be to freeze all development proposals within say 200 metres of the existing rail tracks.
There would be opposition, but the situation relating to the Birmingham Gateway Project is such that there are too many competing interests, which stifle the overall interests of the region.
Bear in mind that early in the 18th century the railway planners intended it to go through Walsall, but the local lord had sufficient influence to stop it passing through his land. Birmingham was second choice, and it became the second largest city in Britain.
LES COOPER, Sutton Coldfield
Lengthy lorries, short conclusion
Dear Editor, Apart from being 40 years too late, the study into Urban Freight Consolidation Centres (UFCCs) is, on the surface, most welcome. Over those decades, we have seen the sabotage of a rail system that had UFCCs in every city and every town in the country.
Within a few miles or so of Birmingham city centre, we still have the Lawley Street freightliner terminal, Bescot and Washwood Heath, but once had Curzon St, Bordesley, Soho Pool to name but a few, with daily (often several) freight train services to and from other towns and cities throughout the UK.
So I suspect there are deeper motives here and suspect the DfT is involved and is probably the originator of the study.
I say this because the DfT, in collaboration with the road haulage industry, has been trying to get approval for 35 metre lorries - equivalent to Australian road trains and not allowed in most of the USA. A few days ago, the German government decided the vehicles were a threat to road safety and that bridges would be damaged by them.
UK road hauliers are always saying that German roads are better than UK roads, so quite clearly these vehicles would be an even greater threat to safety if let loose here.
As far as bridge strength is concerned, since the 1970s the DfT has been steadily increasing the strength of bridges in the UK under what was called the Bridgeguard Scheme and yet again deny knowledge of its existence. They hide it under
maintenance but, if the truth be known, it is to strengthen bridges to carry these behemoths. I base my comments on the following: 1. The DfT denies it is trialling these mammoth trucks, yet my wife and I saw one negotiating the traffic island from the Expressway into New John Street, Birmingham, a year or so ago. Unfortunately, I was driving and had no camera anyway. 2. For the past 30 years or more, the HGV brigade has never paid its full road costs and a Brown budget actually reduced the tax on these vehicles knowing this. 3. Rail transport is now never going to serve all and everywhere and road transport will always dominate as far ahead as I can see. I cannot, however, see the need for these vehicles - they will bring no benefits to anyone except to the operators.
Operators wanting these vehicles should pay for a special roadway to carry them. They should also start paying their full road costs and stop being parasites on motorists, taxpayers and ratepayers.
The far better solution is to provide better road/rail integration with shared road/rail UFCCs. Where smaller road vehicles can service long-distance rail trains.
This way we all benefit - even the road hauliers.
HENRY HARVEY, By email
Journey back in time with Post
Dear Editor, Congratulations to The Birmingham Post on its 150th anniversary. I've been reading the newspaper for more than 20 years and, although it's gone through many changes during this time, it's always maintained its authoritative voice and remains essential reading in our house.
I was walking through Centenary Square on my way to work on Tuesday and saw your photographic exhibition being erected. I urge everyone in Birmingham to make time to visit as I thoroughly enjoyed my walk down memory lane - and it brought back many recollections of my time in the city.
It doesn't seem so long ago that Jamaica Row was demolished, yet you look at the picture of the workman - minus hardhat and surrounded in dust - and you realise how things have changed.
And does anyone else remember Ali's visit to the city in the early 80s? Truly a blast from the past.
ROB WHITTLE, Birmingham
Supermarket peril for parks
Dear Editor, The parks and golf courses of the West Midlands are under threat since the Conservative-controlled Solihull Council set the precedent by taking an initial three acres of Shirley Park, the smallest in the borough, to build an unwanted and unnecessary Asda supermarket.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring council-owned and Asda-leased brownfield PowerGen site has been allowed to rot for 14 years. Sad that the Government's environment and local government departments find this acceptable.
RJ SAYER, Solihull
What price joined up thinking?
Dear Editor, Trains are overcrowded? Clearly, passengers need to be hit with yet another above-inflation fare increase.
Airports are overcrowded? Obviously, the solution is a massive programme of expansion which will destroy whole communities and make it impossible to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Does this Government even understand the concept of joined-up thinking?
MIKE WRIGHT, By email
Immigrants not over-qualified
Dear Editor, I was much moved by Chris Upton's piece on the Cradley Heath nailmakers and realised how their history informs the ethos of this city. Reading your paper of late I understand how much you are in tune with this ethos and for this you should be complemented.
However, I believe you are wrong to call the new immigrants from the accession states 'over qualified'. They are not - just over-qualified for Birmingham. When they realise this, I expect them to take steps to rectify the matter.
Your statement that they will permanently fill job vacancies at low pay and effortlessly make your fortunes will not happen.
T H TAYLOR, Birmingham