January 19: Collective punishment

If those who don't take care of their own terrorists are untouchable "collectives" not to be punished, the democracies may as well invite Osama bin Laden, Hamas and Hizbullah to take over.

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Collective punishment
Sir, - Regarding "Amnesty International report claims Israeli blockade of Gaza is collective punishment" (January 18), is war possible without collective punishment? In another headline the same day, we read, "Pakistan: Suspected US drone kills 20." Were all 20 terrorists? President George W. Bush, after 9/11, said that those who harbor terrorists are terrorists. Was the war on Iraq collective punishment? Is the war in Afghanistan collective punishment?
If those who don't take care of their own terrorists are untouchable "collectives" not to be punished, the democracies may as well invite Osama bin Laden, Hamas and Hizbullah to take over: Let the innocent collectives die, but the guilty collectives must be protected!
Enough 'gestures'
Sir, - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proclaims, "We are finished with the arsenal of gestures... we are waiting for gestures from the Palestinians" ("Lieberman: No more gestures to Palestinians," January 18).
The definition of "gestures" is "An act or a remark made as a formality or as a sign of intention or attitude." The time is long past for mere "gestures, intents, attitudes." The framework for peace has existed since the 1967 war; 43 years of documents describe the same frameworks and actions.
Three generations have passed, and the "facts on the ground" have changed; the positions have hardened. Three generations of Israelis and Palestinians know not the Green Line, know settlements as their only home, know refugee camps as their only home. Three generations have grown up learning fear, loathing, fallacies, longings, myths and messianism that drive them further apart, further from peace.
Enough with "gestures." It's time for decisions, actions, behaviors. We don't need people like Lieberman bellicosing and bullying. We need leaders brave enough to make those tough decisions they know they must make if they really want peace. Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims and Jews, the Quartet, the Arab League, the UN - everybody.
Or else we will have another three generations fearing and loathing, each destroying the "other" and themselves, and poisoning everything nearby.
JUDY BAMBERGERO'Connor, Australia
House of Nations
Sir, - Readers of "Terra Incognita: Soft colonialism" (January 13) may wish to consider the following: The whole Government House compound is (and has been for over six decades) the headquarters of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). UNTSO is a peacekeeping operation mandated by Security Council Resolution 73 to assist Israel and four neighboring Arab States (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) in the application of the terms of the Armistice Agreements they all signed in 1949.
The Security Council has kept its resolution unchanged since then, and until modified by the mutual agreement of the signatory parties, the position of the Green Line also remains unchanged, notwithstanding the events of 1967. The Green Line traces the area, in between east and west Jerusalem, where UNTSO headquarters is located.
From Government House, UNTSO oversees the training and deployment of military officers and civilian staff serving at its headquarters, Tiberias, the Golan and along the Blue Line with Lebanon, while coordinating the liaison with the five countries of its mission area. At Government House, it continues to receive representatives from the Israeli government, from other UN member states and - as part of its public information activities - civil society organizations.
Government House is not "guarded by UN soldiers." Security is a responsibility of UN civilian staff inside its premises, and of the Israeli government outside them. Government House is indeed a former residence, partially converted into functioning UN offices, workshops and limited living space, while preserving - on behalf of the whole membership of the UN - the building's historic and unique architectural character.
MARCO CARMIGNANISpokesperson, UNTSOJerusalem
The letter of the law
Sir, - It was illegal for Amira Hass to enter Gaza because it is illegal for Israeli citizens to enter Gaza ("Protesting 'Code Red,'" Letters, January 18).
It was illegal for the Free Palestine ferries to enter Gaza because in accordance with binding UN Security Council Resolution 1373 from 2001, it is illegal for states or individuals to give any assistance to terrorist organizations. Since Gaza is ruled by the Hamas terrorist organization, it is illegal to provide any assistance to Gaza. As to the writer's claim that because the IDF only stopped some of the ferries and not all of the ferries, their mission to supply Hamas was not illegal, law isn't law only when it is enforced. Non-enforcement of law is wrong, but non-enforcement doesn't make something illegal legal.
Regarding the Goldstone Report: The report, and the letter of reference that set the mission of the Goldstone Commission are political policies, not legal moves. The fact that Judge Goldstone made legalistic assertions does not give legal weight to his arguments, nor does the fact that he won majority support for his political conclusions in the Islamic-bloc-controlled UN General Assembly give his report the weight of law.
The Hamas terrorist organization is persecuting the civilian population living under its jackboot in Gaza by, among other things, using that civilian population as a human shield behind which it prosecutes its illegal war against the people of Israel.
Hailing MLK...
Sir, - In regard to Marc Schneier's article on Martin Luther King Jr. ("MLK had a dream: Israel included," January 18), as a native of Atlanta and devotee of MLK's father "Big Daddy" King's preaching style, I was fortunate to be here in the early '80s when MLK Day became an official holiday in USA.
On that occasion, Jerusalem named a street for MLK near Liberty Bell Park - and prime minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered the education ministry to translate the biography of MLK and quotes from some of his notable sermons into Hebrew. Over 150,000 copies of the pamphlet with this material was published and distributed to Israeli school children. To top it off, a special session was held at the Knesset in his memory, highlighted by addresses from Henry Kissinger and Abba Eban, among others. The democratic spirit in this country continues to burn brightly, from left to right and in-between. Back then, Shamir's act in treating MLK so splendidly inspired us all.
... and our heroes in Haiti
Sir, - I was watching the news coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, and it was wonderful to hear Sky News praise the Israeli team as it rescued a man from the rubble. He had been trapped for eight hours!
Then there was the joy of the newborn baby Israel ("Birth of baby 'Israel' a rare highlight as IDF rescue teams confront Haiti disaster," January 18). CBS described the Israeli facility as the "Rolls Royce" of field hospitals. Praise indeed, and well-deserved. I wish all the rescue teams successful outcomes in this most devastating natural disaster.
Sir, - I would like to wish a mazal tov to the baby born in Haiti after this terrible tragedy and named Israel. Well done, our heroes working in Haiti!