Sir, - In his postscript to an earlier article, Larry Derfner argues that America's war in Afghanistan is one of self-defense, while Operation Cast Lead was not ("When in doubt, shoot," December 10). He asserts that Israel imposed a devastating blockade on Gaza immediately after the disengagement, and that it then rejected Hamas's offer to end the rocketing in return for lifting the blockade.
Derfner is mistaken. At the time of the original disengagement (August 2005), Israel was fully prepared to assist the Palestinians in building a successful economy in the newly vacated territory. The blockade was imposed in June 2007 when Hamas - a proven terrorist organization with the stated goal of destroying Israel - took control of Gaza.
Israel had every reason to view the offer to cease rocket fire as merely a temporary gambit to allow Hamas to regroup for further hostilities while gaining the benefit of a free flow of weapons. Hamas gave no indication that it would alter its ultimate goal - the violent eradication of the "Zionist entity."
Israel had already absorbed 8,000 missiles in the preceding years, despite its efforts to end these attacks through pinpoint air strikes causing minimal damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure. Under those circumstances, Israel had every right to act preemptively to defend its citizens against the future attacks that were certain to come. Israel was not required to wait patiently until Hamas decided that it was strong enough to attack again.
In any event, it was Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal who declared on December 14 that the group would not renew the truce with Israel. On December 18, Hamas declared the end of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, with a surge of cross-border fighting. Gaza terrorists ratcheted up rocket fire at Israel on December 24. Israel then launched its defensive war on December 27.
One final point: Since Derfner believes that "you have the right to punish the enemy's civilians for the purpose of deterring the enemy from attacking you again," may we assume that he would support a massive air strike against a Palestinian refugee camp the next time a suicide bomber from that camp kills Israeli civilians?
EFRAIM A. COHEN
The real obstacle to peace
Sir, - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama contend that building in the settlements is an obstacle to peace ("Begin: Obama more problematic than Carter on settlements," December 9). Has anyone noticed who exactly is doing the building in the settlements? Hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinians.
When building is curtailed, Palestinian employment opportunities are eliminated, resulting in a perfect recipe for a Palestinian economic recession. Disgruntled Palestinians unable to work or feed their families is, in turn, a perfect recipe for a third intifada.
Palestinian gainful employment in the settlements brings about positive, cooperative relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, along with economic, social and educational advancement.
On the contrary, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton - not building in the settlements, and all the ensuing ramifications, is a guaranteed obstacle to peace.
Barak's special treatment
Sir, - Kol hakavod to Uri Hirsch ("Just a little employed...," Letters, December 10).
If an unknown citizen had done all the things Ehud Barak has managed to carry out, he would go straight to jail. Why do the so-called "elite" get special treatment? Where is our democratic spirit?
We can only hope that there will be a change sometime in the near future.
Al-Dura's damage is done
Sir, - The German film documentary debunking the al-Dura shooting, an event that sparked and helped stoke negative Arab sentiments against Israel, is a little too late ("German documentary to debunk al-Dura shooting," December 9). As has been the case for a long time, we are busy watching attack after attack - verbal and physical - against Israel, depicting it as immoral and unrepentant for daring to establish a state.
The documentary and all that goes with it must, of course, be shown to the world. However, we have long since passed the stage where people begin to question anti-Israel hatred. Now should be the time for conferences all over the world to deal with this phenomenon.
Choosing to refuse
Sir, - There is ample room in the Halachic process for rabbinic readings that acknowledge certain choices to be a personal matter - i.e., in which the individual may decide to honor his sentiments and for which he takes full responsibility. One such case is a student asking the head of his hesder yeshiva whether or not he should obey an order to participate in the forcible evacuation of Jewish families from parts of the Land of Israel ("Barak calls Har Bracha hesder yeshiva head for hearing," December 9).
This is what the Rabbi might say: "If your appeal to your immediate commanding officer has been rejected and you face such a dilemma, I can only say that the two values in conflict here are both important Torah values: 1) our obligation at this point in history to retain and settle all parts of the Land of Israel, and 2) the well-being and effectiveness of the IDF, upon which the security of the state and our people depend.
"Your refusal to obey will not materially change the impending action, so you haven't done anything to save the land or these families. On the other hand, your refusal will have immediate unfortunate consequences for you, your family, your future and possibly for the yeshiva movement you represent. However, the choice is yours. Should you refuse, I shall fully understand, respect your choice and support you to the greatest extent that I can."
That said, the issue of refusing an order to forcibly evacuate Jewish families should not be confused with the utterly childish political demonstrations by soldiers in service, and particularly at military ceremonies. These are foolish and irresponsible acts and deserve condemnation.
Coming to an area near you
Sir, - First, a large round of applause to The Jerusalem Post for its coverage of health issues, aging issues, Alzheimer's care and related concerns.
In response to Jill Sadowsky's letter, "Spread the health" (December 7), which noted that our organization, Melabev, "operates a network of day centers in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh" and concluded with the question, "How about starting up in the Sharon area next?" Melabev director-general Motti Zelikovitch writes: "You are correct that we serve Jerusalem and surrounding area, but we have plans to spread out, including to the Sharon area. Due to the financial situation which has caused diminished contributions, however, it will unfortunately take us longer than we had planned."
SUSAN H. SACHS
Public relations coordinator, Melabev
A new psalm?
Sir, - Police accused an Israeli of praying with his daughter on the Temple Mount and made him sign an affidavit that he would not "disturb the peace again" ("2 held for praying on Temple Mount," December 10).
When were the words of Psalm 122, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," changed to "Praying disturbs the peace in Jerusalem"?