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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 21, 2009 at 4:00 PM

War in Gaza

Hamas as much to blame for civilian deaths

Steve Niva’s opinion piece [“Losing hearts and minds: Israel’s futile way of war,” guest columnist, Jan. 17] is naive and simplistic. Israel has to stop Hamas from firing rockets at civilian population centers in Israel from Gaza.

Israel does all it can to limit civilian casualties, short of capitulation. Hamas is responsible for the civilian casualties because it intentionally draws Israeli fire to Palestinian civilians. This is a barbaric thing for Hamas to do.

The world community rewards Hamas for the suffering it causes Gazan citizens when it responds the way Niva did. If the world responded with disgust to Hamas, instead of apologizing for its barbarity, Hamas wouldn’t use this tactic. If people like Niva put as much pressure on Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israeli civilians as they do on Israel to stop defending itself, this situation might never have happened.

— Barry Werner, Seattle resident living in Israel

Temporary relief and cease-fire are not enough

Your Jan. 15 editorial, “As Gaza bleeds,” must be commended for balance and for rightfully pointing out that the U.S. must do more to restrain our friend Israel. Largely overlooked by the press, Israel has, for years, waged a virtual war on Gaza by controlling borders and denying access to food, fuel, power and water. It is a war that continued uninterrupted after the official recognition of Israel by Fatah and well before Hamas came to power.

As volunteers in Gaza City in 2000, we witnessed essential shortages due to closures, power disruptions, restriction in the number of workers allowed to travel to and from jobs in Gaza or Israel, land confiscation for settlements and bypass roads. Since then, regular correspondence with Gazan friends in a relief agency and a Christian hospital attest to a relentless tightening of the economic blockade and continuous escalation of military measures to subdue resistance and “pacify” civilians.

Humanitarian assistance is now the highest priority, but temporary resupply of food and medicine is not enough. No cease-fire will endure unless the borders are permanently opened to normal commerce. As the most powerful military force in the Middle East (said to be among the top-five nuclear world powers), Israel has the responsibility to open the door to peace with Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Maybe one of the terms of a lasting agreement could be an exchange of reparations: Hamas will agree to repair rocket damage in Israel, and Israel will agree to repair the damage done to Gaza. A small gesture might be permitting the green grocers in the open-air markets of east Jerusalem to sell produce grown by small Palestinian farmers, instead of Israeli agri-businesses located on Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley.

Thank you for also printing the comments by Akiva Segan [“Common ground in Gaza begins with a cease-fire,” guest commentary, Jan. 15], a viewpoint shared by many thoughtful Jews.

— Fred and Mary Pneuman, Medina

Consequences proportional to the problem

After reading Steve Niva’s article, it was the last straw. Let me relate the issues of Gaza on a local level.

Suppose he country of Mercer Island (“Islanders”) vows to kill and eliminate all of its neighbors. Over a period of five years, they shoot over 6,000 missiles indiscriminately into your neighborhood.

Your neighborhood extends from Lynnwood in the north to Tacoma in the south, west to Bremerton and east past North Bend. It’s no problem, after all, when the siren goes off; you have 14 seconds to find shelter. It does not matter that only four of your fellow citizens were killed in 2008. Don’t count the physical damage, so you can try to explain again to your child when he wakes up screaming that it is not his fault his aunt was wounded and he is traumatized.

There are 800,000 inhabitants in Seattle and Bellevue alone. The Mercer Islanders have vowed to kill all of you, put it in their constitution and perpetrated terrorist acts. And yet, you continue to provide them with access roads for supplies, water and power, and treat their sick and wounded.

The Islanders are solely responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions. They elected Hamas, not the citizens of Seattle. Your alternatives are simple: Put up with it or act in your own self-defense as clinically as possible to eliminate the threats to your citizens.

Proportionality? Fine, start sending rockets down on the Islanders indiscriminately (to make up for lost time, let’s send 1,000 per month for the next six months) or go after the problem and eliminate the threat. The consequences are proportional to the problem initiated by the Islanders.

— Jack Richlen, Seattle

Time to stop justifying Hamas rocket-fire

Steve Niva writes about Israel’s “disproportionate force and heavy-handedness.” He did not mention that Israel acted in self-defense against Hamas’ terrorists acts aimed intentionally at killing innocent civilians. He did not mention that these acts violate international law and vowing to eliminate a nation is also an act of terrorism and further violation of international law.

Hamas is a terrorist organization backed by Iran that uses civilians as human shields to attack civilians and kill anyone who opposes its fundamentalist ideology, including moderate Palestinians who are seeking peace with Israel.

Israel does not have settlements in Gaza and has not had any since 2005. It is time to stop justifying Hamas rocket attacks and the repression of the Palestinians under the nonexistent “occupation.”

It is up to the Palestinians, not Israel, to develop their political and civic institutions. Hamas chose to use their resources to dig smuggling tunnels and project rockets toward Israel, rather than develop a nation. Israel chose to protect its citizens.

Any cease-fire agreement must include a 100 percent halt to rocket attacks and a guarantee that Hamas will not rearm. Only then should Israel be expected to cease its response.

— Iris Langman, Mercer Island

Israel’s standard of morality

Steve Niva’s diatribe against Israel is nothing short of scurrilous. He conveniently ignores assorted inconvenient truths, including Hamas’ explicit commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel; Hamas’ explicit commitment to the annihilation or subjugation or all non-Muslims; and Hamas’ utterly cowardly, amoral and willful disregard of all Geneva Conventions by dressing as civilians, hiding among civilians and ruthlessly using fellow Palestinians as human shields.

Despite the fact that the Palestinians overwhelming voted Hamas into office, knowing full-well Hamas’ murderous ideology and policies, Israel has been remarkably careful to minimize true civilian casualties.

Had Israel really wanted to go fully after Hamas command and control centers and hold the Palestinian electorate accountable for its political choices, it would have bombed into oblivion Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, in the basement of which the cowardly Hamas leadership took shelter. This would have ended the war within a few days.

Instead, Israel chose to handicap its military ability in order to adhere to its standards of morality and international conventions, even though its opponent has no morality and contemptuously violates all international codes of conduct.

— Gabriel Scherzer, Bellevue

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