January 19: Relying on ourselves

So Hamas is laying down its conditions. When does a defeated aggressor dictate the terms of a cease-fire?

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Relying on ourselves Sir, - So Hamas is laying down its conditions ("Hamas declares cease-fire, gives IDF one week to withdraw," Online Edition, January 18). When does a defeated aggressor dictate the terms of a cease-fire? And where does Gilad Schalit fit into the equation? It seems to me that Israel's leaders are the ones who should be determining the terms of any cease-fire. Of course, I realize that our proposal needs to include some face-saving for Hamas. But all will have been for naught if we do not lead from a position of strength in formulating an agreement - and insisting on it. The world will continue to condemn us, no matter what we do or don't do. So let us do what is most appropriate to protect ourselves. We can, ultimately, rely on no one else. HELEN KRIEGSFELD Jerusalem Our finest hour? Sir, - As a survivor of London's Blitz in 1940, now living close to where a Hamas rocket caused havoc on Saturday night, I was perplexed to read "Olmert calls a halt to assault on Hamas, saying all Israel's goals have been attained" (January 18). I do not recall Winston Churchill calling a halt to defending England until victory had been achieved, but do remember his speech describing England's determination to win against all odds as its "finest hour." HANS ANTON BROD Ashdod Limits of power Sir, - This conflict presents us with a true dilemma as to the limits of power, the power of words, radical Islam and the suicide cult-charity organization called Hamas ("Hamas will never change. Will Egypt?" David Horovitz, January 18). It seems that we could pulverize the last house in Gaza, but as long as several thousand fighters are still left underground, they will come back to try and destroy us once more. Still, they need a cease-fire so they can get those crossings opened and show their people an accomplishment. So how about this solution: a cease-fire, opening of the Gaza crossings and a promise not to attack, in return for two things: 1. Hamas's recognition of Israel's right to exist within safe borders - from which it follows that they will stop firing at us; and 2. the return of Gilad Schalit (along with a prisoner exchange). Of course in order to comply with the first condition, Hamas would have to stop "being Hamas," which is unlikely. Yet if it doesn't stop being Hamas, it won't stop trying to rearm and fire missiles at us… which is why the solution is still far away. JAY ZUCKERMAN Oranit Benign Watcher Sir, - One "thank you" was unfortunately absent from the gratitude both PM Olmert and Defense Minister Barak expressed to several individuals connected with the Gaza operation. Throughout the ordeal we learned of the many miracles that transpired; of how, all the danger notwithstanding, so few Israelis lost their lives in battle and on the home front. We saw many individuals who had narrowly escaped death standing next to homes destroyed by enemy missiles, and heard them utter two simple words: Thank God. If only our leaders would recognize that there is Someone watching over us, and direct some gratitude in His direction ("Miracles and wonders - Beersheba residents count themselves lucky," January 13). MARC LESNICK Beit Shemesh Civilian casualties Sir, - Doesn't Adam Keller know that Hamas deliberately places its rocket launchers in populated areas so that when Israel targets a launcher, collateral damage is inevitable? ("Unsportsmanlike Israel," Letters, January 18.) Would he perhaps have justified Israel's response if, God forbid, a rocket had killed dozens of our own civilians? Why has Hamas bombarded our population centers for the last three years when every Jew left Gaza in 2005? According to the peace camp, the disengagement was supposed to end the conflict and bring peace. Where's the peace, Mr. Keller? RON BELZER Petah Tikva Sir, - Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller is right when he says a disproportionate number of civilians, especially children, has been killed in Gaza. His organization is partly to blame. Had Gush Shalom insisted that Israel ban the building and use of shelters and demanded that, instead, every Israeli army unit take several dozen children along for use as human shields, we could have reached parity with or even surpassed Hamas in child victims. Mr. Keller's conscience would then presumably be clear. DAVID STEINHART Petah Tikva Begging the question Sir, - Larry Derfner's "'Disproportionate'" doesn't describe it," (January 15) begged the question of just what is considered proportionate. Lobbing 6,500 rockets into Gaza, aimed at civilians, would have been "proportionate" to what Hamas has been doing. That large numbers of Israelis have not been killed and maimed is not due to Hamas's lack of desire to achieve this; rather to daily miracles, along with our sirens and alerts and civilian shelters. Mr. Derfner: Please write a column addressed to the Gaza leadership assuring it that zero rockets on Israel will be met proportionately by zero bombs on Gaza; and zero smuggling of arms will be met by zero closing of crossings. Otherwise disproportion will unfortunately have to continue. EVA KATZ Jerusalem My view of you is... Sir, - To the forum of Israeli human rights organizations that condemns Israel: As a resident of a community on the Gaza border, I want to know why you keep silent when Israel is being attacked and yet raise all hell when Israel defends herself ("Israeli human rights groups call for 'war crimes' probe against IDF," January 15). And why did you hold your press conference in Jerusalem and not in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba - or even on my kibbutz? I consider all of you Israelis and Jews at this conference traitors to your country, and to your people. DON SALIMAN Kibbutz Nahal Oz ...you've crossed the line Sir, - It is possible that most of the "humanitarian" groups organized in Israel began with noble and moral aims. However, they seem, in the name of free speech, to have crossed the line and become libelous, seditious, slanderous and deliberately fraudulent by misrepresenting facts and events, ignoring Jewish concerns and pushing a political agenda that supports terrorists and their efforts to destroy Israel and Western civilization ("Pilot: I aborted mission to avoid hitting civilians," January 15). SONIA GOLDSMITH Netanya Sense and sensibility Sir, - It's comforting to know that Annie Lennox feels pain for the wounded and dead children, but it seems the pain only started to bother her when the Israelis started defending themselves from the incessant attacks against them ("I'm for peace," Letters, January 15). Where was she when Yasser Arafat was urging Palestinian children to become suicide bombers - and this after Oslo? She says peace and security come with dialogue, but Hamas's idea of dialogue until now has been them continuing to bomb us, and us continuing to talk about it. She opposes the "senseless war." I didn't hear her opposing the senseless bombing of Sderot and other cities; and I suppose Hamas didn't either, because it carried on bombing. CECILIA HENRY Kfar Bialik Deeply worrying Sir, - Further to "Israel worried about upswing in international anti-Semitism" (January 14): Over the last few weeks there have been numerous protests in the center of Belfast against the Gaza conflict. I have witnessed deep anti-Semitism at these protests. On one occasion, an Irish Socialist group burst into a shopping center and surrounded a young Israeli skin care sales assistant. At one protest there was a flag with a Star of David, an equals sign and a Nazi swastika on it. I reported this to two groups of police officers and nothing was done. The flag remained until the end of the protest, waved by a middle-aged Muslim man with his child on his shoulders. It was then given to some kids and carried around town. I and many other people have been stopped from displaying our Israeli flags at any of the protests. Also, the only Jewish member of the Irish parliament was branded "Goebbels" by a Sinn Fein representative. REUBEN TAYLOR Belfast, Northern Ireland Worthy of mention Sir, - On Sunday evening January 11, under the auspices of the United Synagogue and Bnei Akiva and under the banner of "A service of prayer for our soldiers in Israel," a service was held in Hendon United Synagogue, Raleigh Close. There were about 1,000 people present, ranging from Bnei Akiva members to elderly US members. It was addressed by Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury, rabbi of the community, Henry Grunwald QC, Yahav Lichner, parliamentary officer of the Israeli embassy, and Jewish Agency emissary Rabbi Warren Kaye. This event was not included in "Thousands support Israel at UK rallies" (January 11). A thousand people in the shul was quite a significant turnout, and it deserved a mention. JUDITH BARNET London I ask you Sir, - I am visiting Jerusalem and was in the Great Synagogue when last week's air-raid siren went off. Although it cannot compare to the situation in which the residents of Sderot have been living for the past eight years, it gave me a sense of the fear they must experience several times a day. How can anyone be expected to live under these conditions? ("Jerusalem siren sparks panic, apathy, confusion," January 15.) RHODA WACHSSTOCK Passaic, NJ