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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 1, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Israel and Gaza

A Hamas-orchestrated tour

Danny Westneat’s column, “Baird’s view is what he really sees” [Local News, Feb. 25], describes Congressman Brian Baird’s thoughts of his visit to see the aftereffects of war in Gaza. But, Westneat fails to report that what Congressman Baird saw was orchestrated and controlled by the Hamas leadership that let him into Gaza.

So, to Baird, seeing is believing – what he is fed.

Baird is perplexed about Israel’s choice for targets, saying: “How can you justify crushing an ambulance?” He apparently isn’t aware that ambulances are a favorite mode of transportation for Hamas militants.

Baird is also probably not aware the Hamas command bunker is located under Gaza’s largest hospital. This, most likely, wasn’t part of his tour.

Is Congressman Baird similarly perplexed by Hamas’ tactics that include shooting from the vicinity of schools, hiding ammunition in mosques or shooting from the top of populated apartment buildings? Or, is he only perplexed when Israel shoots back?

Congressman Baird would be better off focusing on his position as Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, rather than jumping into a very complicated conflict in a complicated part of the world.

— Michael Berenhau, Potomac

Batting their eyelashes

Columnist Danny Westneat quotes Congressman Brian Baird of Vancouver, Wash., deriding Israel’s operations in Gaza as out of scale “as an eye for an eyelash.” An eyelash? Hamas has launched more than 6,000 rockets and mortars against Israeli citizens since 2001, putting one million Israelis at risk, including citizens of Seattle’s sister city, Beersheva.

I have relatives in Israel. I wonder if Baird would consider it an “eyelash” if rockets were being fired daily at his hometown or his family.

In early December I heard a social worker from the Israeli town of Sderot, ground zero for the rocket attacks, tell of children kept indoors or only allowed to venture a few yards from a bomb shelter. I wondered how Sderot tolerated it. Why did they not demand government action?

Yet, when Israel finally did take action, Baird calls the provocation “an eyelash.”

Israel tried to minimize civilian casualties by giving advance warnings. The civilian death toll in Gaza increased because Hamas chose to fire rockets from heavily populated areas, where Hamas leaders, such as MP Fathi Hammad, boasted of using women and children as human shields.

Was Israel’s response too great? If yes, why does Hamas remain defiant and continue to fire rockets? Perhaps, on the contrary, Israel didn’t inflict sufficient damage on Hamas.

Baird may have gone to look, but did he really see?

— Rochelle Kochin, Seattle

Refusing to accept Israel’s existence: a core problem

The two letters on “Israel and Gaza” [“Entanglement with Israel eroding our moral credibility,” “The most aggressive Middle East nation,” Northwest Voices] on Feb. 24 were misleading, presenting a one-sided argument against Israel.

Israel was forced to fight a defensive war against Hamas. Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately on Israel that could kill and terrorize Israeli civilians.

Hamas still holds illegally-seized Gilad Shalit hostage without allowing the Red Cross to visit him. Shalit should be released immediately.

Understand in Cairo, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will be offering $900 million in American aid to Palestinians for Gaza reconstruction. Israel should insist that the international community’s conditions for dealing with Hamas are met and not changed simply because Hamas refuses to comply.

Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence is a core problem. It would be counterproductive to overlook this problem by seeking structural reform. Structural reform will not make core problems disappear.

— Josh Basson, Seattle

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