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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2005, pages 51-52

Other People's Mail

Compiled by Kate Hilmy and Delinda Hanley

Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.

Israel Redraws the Road Map

To Minnesota’s Star Tribune, as submitted, Oct. 18, 2005

I had my hopes that the new Star Tribune’s “World” section would deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in depth, providing some context, rather than simply reporting recent killings, usually from Israel’s point of view. This conflict ought to be of far more interest to your readers than cosmetic surgery that merited several columns of “The World” in its debut issue last week.

I think the Star Tribune has an obligation to provide information that will help readers understand this conflict of such importance to the USA. A just resolution of this conflict is crucial for stability in the Middle East. An unjust resolution will fuel further conflict.

Even if Americans think they know enough about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or are tired of reading about it, there is little general understanding of it.

For example, how many Americans know that America’s aid to Israel amounts to more than $15 million per day? That makes us complicit in what is going on. To quote the late Peter Jennings, “It’s your money.”

I am sending an article from The Guardian, “Israel Redraws the Road Map, Building Quietly and Quickly.” It is a sample of the information I would like to see in the Star Tribune.

Florence Steichen, St. Paul, MN

Palestinians Just Want Their Land Back

To the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oct. 13, 2005

In 1948, Israelis forcibly removed 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in the initial formation of the Israeli state. Then in 1967, it occupied the rest of what used to be called Palestine and subjected what was left of the Palestinian people to a process of continuing disenfranchisement from what was left of their lands.

Israelis have been continuously and illegally building settlements of grand dimensions ever since. All this is justified by Israel’s winning a war in 1967, almost 40 years ago—that is what I hear from Zionist sympathizers.

Why are Palestinians accused of wanting to drive the Israelis into the sea when the Israelis have been doing all the driving from their drivers’ seats so richly endowed with loan guarantees and direct subsidies from U.S. taxpayers?

John Glansbeek, Seattle, WA

Robenstein Article is Logical

To Haaretz Daily, Oct. 4, 2005

I’ve read this article twice, and found it very reasonable and logical. The sweeping arrests of people who absolutely have nothing to do with any violence, and many of whom are actually quite moderate and oppose violence, could only push Hamas toward more extremism and might very well push it underground.

Likewise, there is no doubt that the PA and its leader Abbas are being viewed by many Palestinians as working in concert with Israel to weaken Hamas. Abbas’ silence regarding the arrests serves to enforce the Palestinian public suspicions in this regard.

In any case, the arrests of candidates and elected municipal officials just because they happen to be religious and oppose the occupation says much about Israel’s and America’s commitment to democracy in the Arab world.

I and most Arabs and Muslims fail to understand how democracy in this part of the world can be promoted by raiding candidates’ homes in the quiet hours before dawn and arresting and beating them in full view of their children and families.

Besides, the argument that Hamas must disarm before taking part in the political process is nonsense. The Americans themselves allowed the Shi’i Iraq Badr organization to take part in the Iraqi elections without disarming them. Same thing with Hezbollah in Lebanon. It was allowed to take part in the recent Lebanese elections without being disarmed.

Finally, if Israel is truly concerned about this matter, it should disarm Jewish settlers who murder Palestinian civilians whenever the chance arises.

Khalid, via e-mail

Soldiers’ Raids Do Much Harm

To The San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 14, 2005

I was stunned to see on the Oct. 13 front page of The Chronicle a picture caption that claimed, “soldiers reimburse civilians for everything they break in a raid.”

I have been in Iraq twice since this war began and can tell you that for most Iraqis that simply is not true. They are rarely reimbursed for what is destroyed, let alone what many soldiers have stolen. Members of the Christian Peacemakers Team have tried to get reimbursements for Iraqi civilians to no avail. Let’s stop the lies that our government would like us to believe.

Kara Speltz, Oakland, CA

Benchmarks Key to Measuring Progress

To The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 13, 2005

Thanks for the Oct. 7 editorial, “The coming G.I. drawdown in Iraq.” It verbalized a key concept America’s political leaders seem uncomfortable with or incapable of facing: benchmarks of progress for the conflict in Iraq.

As Americans, we need the administration to provide such benchmarks so we can judge how this war is going.

The daily news brings a mix of hopeful and gloomy stories without indicating a discernible pattern of progress. The Pentagon’s announcements are equally inconsistent, with boasts of the Iraqi army’s progress followed by unexplained backtracking.

Let the Bush administration state the landmarks we all can use that will show Iraq’s progress on the path to viability as a state without a constant protective presence. For too long the president and his aides have been getting by with “trust-us” rhetoric.

Without insisting on a timetable, we all need to know what yardstick we can use to measure the progress of this grievous mission.

Peter Weiss, Berne, NY

Thin Line Between Love & Hate

To The Hoboken Reporter, July 31, 2005

After the latest bombings, President Bush got on TV and smirked, “...killers. They don’t share our values. Theirs is an ideology of hatred.” Sure, that’s right. And we, when we flatten a whole country and trash its ancient treasures and kill 100,000 of its people, we do it out of love.

T. Weed, Hoboken, NJ

Christian Extremism a Global Threat

To The Independent, Oct. 11, 2005

I commend The Independent for publishing Paul Vallely’s incisive comment about the religious forces which shape the world through the White House (“Whether God speaks to him or not, Bush’s religious fanaticism has shaped our world,” Oct. 8). Many Muslims have tried to raise awareness of Christian fundamentalism and its doctrine of Armageddon, but these claims have thus far been derided as conspiracy theories. When the truth comes from the horse’s mouth—as it were—it seems to carry a more sinister reality.

It is now for the people to decide whether they accept such extremist religious ideas permeating through the model “democratic” state and leading to catastrophe across the globe

Dr. Rashed Akhtar, Leicester, UK

Image Above All

To the San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 27, 2005

So Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wants the United States to abide by the Geneva Conventions, to protect prisoners from torture because “it is hurting America’s image abroad...It’s not about prisoners. It’s about us’’ (“McCain backs bill against use of torture,’’ Sept. 26).

He is concerned only about the image? How about the integrity and humanity of a country that loves to proclaim itself as “This Great Nation”?

I am shocked and sad, but not surprised.

Ursula Berg, Menlo Park, CA

Real Conservatives Fiscally Prudent

To the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oct. 4, 2005

Please let’s cease the farce of calling George Bush and the Republicans “conservatives.” My father was a real conservative. A child of the Great Depression and veteran of World War II, he taught me to avoid debt at all costs.

I watched in horror what’s happened to the Gulf Coast and the government response. I thought surely this dire situation would bring back fiscal sanity. Yet tax cuts are not being reversed. Even prior to this disaster I was outraged by tax cuts for the wealthy and underfunding of critical needs for our country’s future, especially education (from early childhood to higher education) and health care.

My conservative dad taught me that those who have should always give to help those in need. Shared sacrifice to build a better future for their children was a motto for “the Greatest Generation.” The Bush motto seems to be “Help the Haves & the Have Mores and distract the rest with fear.” The notion that our nation can fund an unending war, a huge rebuilding in the gulf and take care of our responsibilities for our future without sufficient taxes is a dangerously radical notion.

Stop calling these radicals conservative!

Betty Williams, Seattle, WA

Hurricane Aftermath

To The International Herald Tribune, Sept. 23, 2005

Bravo to Frank Rich for telling it like it is (“The old Bush magic isn’t working,” Views, Sept. 19). It makes me angry to see how President George W. Bush and his administration have disgraced the American people. I have only question: Why are the American people so silent?

In 1969, during the Vietnam War, I was one of the estimated million or more people who demonstrated in Washington. Such efforts were the beginning in marshaling public opinion against an unjust and unpopular war. Where is this type of response today?

After all that has happened, from lies used to invade Iraq, to increasing the wealth of the already wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower classes, to the current tragedy in New Orleans, one would think it is time for the people to mobilize and show the world that America is better than its president.

Richard Stern, Geneva, Switzerland

Coverage of DC Peace March

To The Washington Post, as submitted, Sept. 25, 2005

Your lengthy coverage of the Sept. 24 peace march curiously failed to mention the open and widespread criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Anyone in attendance would have observed hundreds of signs and posters as well as numerous speakers, including an Israeli peace activist, pointedly condemning the occupation. Clearly, most participants in the march noted that U.S. policies largely driven by Israeli interests are the fons etorigo for what ails the Middle East, even if The Washington Post did not.

Philip M. Giraldi, Purcellville, VA

Villagers Await Quake Aid

To The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2005

Ten years ago, I hiked around northern Pakistan, from one picturesque village to another, charmed by the legendary hospitality of tight-knit tribal communities. How sad that some one million homeless people in this region might not get desperately needed aid before the winter sets in. Is donor fatigue in this horrible year of multiple natural disasters part of the problem?

Douglas Kremer, New York, NY

The Miller Case

To The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2005

So a new day has dawned in the world of American journalism. A free press used to mean that journalists were at least relatively autonomous from the government that they covered. When journalists sought to protect the identities of their sources, it used to imply that those sources, whether from government or private enterprises, were offering crucial information that would otherwise be kept from the public.

After reading The Times’s coverage of Judith Miller’s testimony and Ms. Miller’s own account, I can only conclude that “freedom of the press” and “protecting sources” have entered into the lexicon of Orwellian Newspeak.

The press is apparently free to work in cahoots with government officials to take the country to war on false premises; and the sources a journalist is willing to go to jail to protect include government officials apparently engaged in disinformation campaigns.

If these are the principles that The Times stood behind, it is a sad day for the newspaper. But perhaps it is saddest of all for those of us who still think that the old ideas about the place of the press in an open society were pretty good ones.

Sara Murphy, New York, NY