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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM

War in Gaza

Don’t forget, Israel has tried many policies

Steve Niva’s “Losing hearts and minds: Israel’s futile way of war” [guest columnist, Jan. 17], raises many questions.

However horrible and perhaps ill-conceived the battle in Gaza is, when Niva suggests that Israel should learn from U.S. actions in Iraq in winning the hearts and minds of people, one wonders whether he missed the past five or six years. Few countries are as guilty of poor and ineffective policies and angering the populace as the U.S. has been in Iraq. If Niva sees a change in the last year, the effectiveness of any new policies have yet to be proven.

Of course, Israel has tried many policies, such as the period of Israeli capital investment in Palestinian-occupied lands with a share of border-crossing revenues given to the Palestine Authority — a period that ended when it became clear the revenue was used for graft and armaments to attack Israel and almost nothing else. A good idea even if it didn’t work.

And when he joins the chorus of those who say it’s unfair because Israelis suffered fewer casualties than Palestinians, suggesting all would be OK if more Israelis died, he seems to have forgotten that it would be better if fewer people died in war, not more. Israel suffered the first casualties in this action when Palestinian rockets were fired across the border at Israeli towns.

New ways to deal with rocket attacks would be welcome. One would hope an academic analyst, if that’s what Niva is, would bring more to the table than just prejudice.

— Leonard Goodisman, Bothell

Justifiable rage

The article “Breaking the rules of war” [News, Jan. 17], portrays both Hamas and Israel as being guilty of breaking the rules of warfare by targeting civilians. Technically, this is true. But if you compare the results of the attacks it quickly becomes clear that Israel is the real aggressor in this conflict.

The hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas have killed only three Israeli civilians. This proves that the rocket attacks are ineffective and pose little risk to Israel.

The attacks by Israel have killed hundreds of Palestinians. The death toll of civilians is running a ratio of 100 to one.

Israel also has a history of using weapons that are banned for use in areas where there are civilians. In their attack on Lebanon, they used cluster bombs (provided by the United States) and in the current attack on Gaza there is strong evidence they are using white-phosphorous weapons. The use of these weapons constitutes war crimes, but they know they will get away with it since our government will protect them from any punishment issued by the U.N.

Our blind support of Israel, regardless of what they do, makes us a party to their war crimes. It justifiably enrages the Muslim world, which could result in a terrorist attack against us. I see no advantage to our support of Israel. It is time for the United States to stop supporting the Israeli military.

— Gary Maxwell, Lynnwood

Systematic violation of international law

The article “Breaking the rules of war” [News, Jan. 17] suffers an error of emphasis.

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed dismay during her confirmation hearings at Hamas’ indoctrination of children, use of children as suicide bombers and use of civilians to shield its terrorists, reporter Steven Erlanger attempts to deflect attention from the ultimate war-crimes culprit: Hamas.

Irwin Culter, Canada’s former minister of justice and current professor of law at McGill University, stated recently that there is “almost no comparable example” anywhere in today’s world that so systematically violates international agreements related to armed conflict than Hamas. According to Cutler, Hamas is committing at least six violations of international law:

1. Targeting civilians in Israeli cities with rockets and mortars;

2. Using civilian structures, apartments, mosques and hospitals as shields from which to launch its attacks;

3. Using humanitarian symbols, such as ambulances and hospitals as well as U.N. logos, to transport weapons and fighters;

4. Inciting the public directly to commit genocide (Fourth Geneva Convention);

5. Launching a systematic attack on civilians, which upgrades the violation to a crime against humanity;

6. Recruiting children for armed conflict.

Israel’s response to such war crimes is called self-preservation.

— Larry May, Bellevue

Violence then occupation, not occupation then violence

Steve Niva’s column is filled with the usual propagandist’s tricks, such as repeating old wives’ tales about Gaza as “the world’s most crowded patch of land” (it isn’t) or making grotesque analogies between Hamas and the Irish Republican Army (which, as far as I know, laid no claim to London or Manchester) or imputing Hamas’ violence to Israeli “occupation” (which ended years ago).

But, it also reminds us that in Middle East studies as in Mideast diplomacy, nothing succeeds like failure. In September 1993, President Clinton rewarded the world’s (then) leading terrorist, Yasser Arafat, by inviting him to preside over a state of his own. But Arafat, like his current successors in Gaza, showed far more interest in destroying somebody else’s society via bloody “jihad” than in building one of his own; the hideous effects of Clinton’s reward of terrorism are still very much in evidence.

Nevertheless, Clinton to this day is widely revered as a peacemaking wizard in Middle East affairs because he presided over this charade performed in the Rose Garden itself. Dennis Ross, a prime architect of the whole catastrophe, is now slated to be the lead man in President Obama’s team of experts on the Middle East.

Other stale bromides trotted out by Niva — the “political” or peace process, land for peace, two-state solution, etc. — have also been tried and failed, confuted again and again by Arab rejection.

When Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Hezbollah began its incursions and bombardments. When Israel withdrew from Gaza and expelled Gaza’s Jewish inhabitants, Hamas, entirely in charge of its own fate, did not set about the boring business of building the institutions of a civil society — commerce, health care, public works, education — but devoted all its demonic energy to pulling down the state of Israel.

The practitioners of Middle East studies have invariably been wrong — wrong about the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Lebanese civil war, the less than perfectly democratic nature of Arafat’s regime and the threat of Islamic fascism.

Thus, Niva’s is a representative specimen of his academic guild in ignoring the obvious: It is Arab-Muslim hatred and violence that leads to occupation, not occupation that causes hatred; and the imperial threat in Gaza is not Israel, but the fanatical regime in Iran, for which Hamas is a proxy.

— Edward Alexander, Seattle

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