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January 3, 2009 8:15 AM

Israeli/ Palestinian conflict

Posted by Letters editor


Abid Katib/ Getty Images

The aftermath of an air raid in Gaza City on the Gaza Strip.

These actions protect no one

Editor, The Times:

The Seattle Times deserves praise for outstanding investigative reporting, but your Jan. 1 editorial, "Gaza, the Open Wound" falls short ["Gaza, The Open Wound," Times, Opinion, Jan. 1].

Instead of considering cause and effect in the context of the past 12 months, your conclusion seems to derive from the "unreasonable" ruminations of Shimon Peres, who can't "understand the motives and purposes of the ones who are shooting at us."

The "siege of Gaza" began long before Nov. 5, when Israel imposed a total blockade, closing all ports of entry and sharply restricting the ability of relief agencies to stave off hanger and disease. Before Jan. 2007, reports from respected international human-rights and humanitarian-aide organizations and news sources (including Israeli) indicated growing shortages resulting from intermittent border closures.

Letters from workers in a Christian hospital in Gaza City and the U.N. World Food Program verified shortages of all basic essentials, including milk, flour, meat, medical supplies, cooking and motor fuel, matches, paper, fertilizer, spare parts for hospital and farm equipment and access to clean water.

Furthermore, these agencies must pay for supplies detained in Israeli storage facilities. Not surprising that tunnels have become the primary (and profitable) conduit for both arms and essential supplies, even cattle.
The total blockade followed one day after airstrikes on tunnels in Rafah, amid a five-month cease-fire, when the number of rockets into Israel had been the lowest in many months.

By November, aide agencies were running out of food and cash, and on Dec. 18, UNRWA (the U.N. agency responsible for feeding 750,000 Gazans) suspended operations. The World Health Organization listed hundreds of essential hospital supplies at zero level, including parts for oxygen machines.

Peres' puzzlement over "motives and purposes" strikes me as delusional or duplicitous. The belief that keeping the people of Gaza in a state of fear, deprivation and desperation will protect the people of Israel is irrational; it is more reasonable to fear that a battle for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people might be won by Hamas.

-- Mary Pneuman, Medina

What would you do?

As is normally the case among the U.S. media, The Seattle Times editorial completely ignores the fundamental truth underlying the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

During the 20th century, Zionist settlers emigrated to Palestine and eventually drove out many of the Arab people who lived there through war and ethnic cleansing. This was done for the purpose of establishing a Jewish state on what had been, until that time, Palestinian land.

The defiant efforts of Hamas and other Palestinians to confront Israel pale in comparison to the murder, brutality and human-rights violations committed by the government of Israel against the native people of Palestine.

If editors of The Times find it hard to understand the defiant behavior of Hamas, maybe they should ask themselves an important question: How would they react if they were violently driven from their homes and land?

-- Tom Krebsbach, Brier

Remove the blame; absorb the sorrow

Your Jan. 1 editorial about the situation in Gaza was not helpful. It is easy to blame one side or the other; there is more than enough blame to go around. But until Palestinians and Israelis can get beyond blame, labeling the "other," seeking revenge for past wrongs and "teaching lessons," there will be no peace.

The only way Americans can help is to become true peacemakers, to hear and fully absorb the sorrow and legitimate grievances of all sides and to try to be evenhanded. This is what we have failed to do in the past. It is not easy, but it is what we must do now if we are to help create peace.

-- Conway Leovy, Seattle

Seek the truth elsewhere

I watched with dismay the lack of objectivity on the part of the President George W. Bush White House in dealing with of the crisis in Gaza. I see double standards and sharp contrast when I compare our response to our reaction toward the conflict between Russia and Georgia not too long ago.

When the fighting broke out between Georgia and Russia over the invasion of South Ossetia by the Georgian army and the subsequent invasion by the Russian army, the U.S. condemned Russia's actions for its excessiveness and demanded that Russia stop the military attack.

Bush immediately sent an aid package to Georgia. Regardless of whether it was right for Georgia to take over Ossetia, the U.S. did the right thing by sending much-needed help to the affected civilians and demanding a cease-fire.

This was not to be the case when Israel started to indiscriminately bombard the civilian population in Gaza. The U.S. is the only major Western nation that has yet to ask Israel for cease-fire.

For several days, most U.S. media including The Seattle Times, reported that it was Hamas that broke the cease-fire. Unfortunately, one has to go to the Haaretez (an Israeli newspaper) to know that it was Israel that first broke the cease-fire by blowing up the tunnels.

If we want to be honest brokers in this crisis, we need to first be seen as objective and fair. This is not what I see in the U.S. media or in the response from the Bush White House.

-- Hyder Ali, Issaquah

Sworn to destruction

Froma Harrop rightfully quoted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel must return significant territories to the Palestinians in exchange for peace ["What Israel still must do," syndicated column, Dec. 31]. On the other hand, she referred to the Hamas faction of the Palestinians as "officially dedicated to Israel's destruction."

What she did not address is how there can be any hope of peace between the two adversaries as long as Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel. For more than 20 years, the elementary grade-school books have taught their children Israel does not exist; it is only an "occupying power" that stole the land from their forefathers. They are taught that this land must be reclaimed by the destruction of the "occupier."

I predict West Bank Palestinians will eventually separate from Gaza Strip Palestinians and sign a Peace Treaty with Israel. Gaza Strip Palestinians, under the Hamas leadership, will continue the effort to destroy Israel.

The purpose of Hamas continuing to fire rockets into Israel is to draw Israel into a bloody war. They know that hundreds of Gazan civilians, women and children will be killed. They are intentionally sacrificing their own, knowing the news media in the Islamic world will show those scenes of carnage over and over. Hamas thereby receives publicity, sympathy and support in the Islamic countries.

I have yet to see this point of view in the news media.

-- Thomas Utley, Port Angeles

No strategy to be found

Many letter writers have castigated Israel for their airstrikes in Gaza, saying that they are more than appropriate and causing many civilian deaths.

Any civilian death, Arab or Israeli, that is a result of armed conflict is a tragedy. What many of these letter writers fail to acknowledge is the difference between how these deaths are happening.

Hamas has placed and hidden their locations among the innocent Palestinian population knowing full well that any attack will result in civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Hamas is targeting Israeli citizens with their rockets, not trying to hit any military targets.

The real tragedy is the blatant disregard for the Palestinian population that Hamas is supposed to be defending, and the deaths that are a result of their misguided terror campaign.

-- Robert Oberlander, Issaquah

Give support where it's due

I am writing to express my support for the actions taken by the Israeli government to protect its citizens from daily rocket and mortar attacks launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza.

These attacks, more than 3,000 in 2008, are indiscriminate bombings meant to kill and injure the civilian population of Israel. The Israeli government has tried in vain to negotiate and enter into cease-fires with Hamas.

During the last cease-fire, rocket and mortar attacks continued, as did continual attacks against the military that oversees security at the border. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, and its stated goal is the elimination of Israel.

Additionally, Hamas and other Arab governments continue to allude to Israel's "occupation" of Gaza. Israel left Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Hamas' reference to Israeli "occupation" is their belief, and the belief of many other Arab governments, that the citizens of Israel, living in Israel itself, is an occupation.

Given this fact, I cannot agree with the notion that Israel has responded "disproportionately" to the rocket and mortar attacks coming from Gaza.

The Israeli government must do all it can to protect its citizens or it gives up the right to govern those citizens. If the citizens of Gaza have voted for and supported a government whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel, and that government aids and abets the constant attacks on Israel, then those same citizens will reap the benefits and/or ruination that flows from such support.

The citizens and government of Gaza can't have it both ways -- a war with Israel and open borders with Israel. At this moment, America cannot be seen to waiver in its support of Israel as it responds to these vicious and heinous acts.

The governments across the Arab world will be looking for any weakness displayed by the U.S. in its support of Israel. If any is found, it will be exploited and ultimately, I fear, will lead to another wider Arab-Israeli war. I hope America will be steadfast in her support of Israel at this moment when she need our support most.

-- Robert Carlson, Bainbridge Island

Doing what anyone would

The citizens of the southern regions of Israel have been living with seven years of daily missile attacks causing emotional and psychological fear and casualties to the civilian population.

Hamas is specifically targeting innocent civilians. How dare anyone compare Israel's right to defend itself to fundamentalist Islamic terrorists whose entire doctrine is to kill and destroy.

If Canada pounded Bellingham and Seattle with rockets, what would the U.S. government do? We would all expect the U.S. to protect it's citizens immediately and destroy the bomb and rocket factories in Canada. This is exactly what Israel is doing and exactly what is expected of any civilized nation.

-- Iris Langman, Mercer Island

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