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January 30, 2009

Emulating Iran?

It is a sad commentary that Israel would imitate the Islamic Republic of Iran in disqualifying political parties from coming elections (“Citing Disloyalty, Knesset Bans Main Arab Parties From Elections,” January 30).

It was once a point of pride that Israel included Arab parties in the Knesset. It is in the present day an embarrassment that it would so limit the participation of its Arab citizens.

Ben Burrows
Elkins Park, Pa.

Wrong Yardstick for Measuring Gaza Toll

Your January 16 editorial “Grasping Gaza” sickeningly implied that the civilian death toll in Gaza was not so bad because whatever it was (estimates vary), the civilian death tolls in America’s Iraq War and in Russia’s Chechnya wars (67% and 80% of total deaths respectively) were much worse.

Then, in an editorial the following week, you again suggested that the proper “yardstick” for civilian deaths is to compare Gaza to Chechnya, Iraq and “other recent wars,” where, citing a United Nations report, you wrote that “civilian tolls can reach 90%.” (“Numbering The Dead,” January 23).

The civilian deaths in those “other wars” — the product, in substantial part, of war crimes — is not a proper yardstick.  The proper measure is international humanitarian law and simple morality.

Kathleen Peratis
New York, N.Y.

Kathleen Peratis is a member of the Forward Association.

So you say that “every civilian death is horrific,” but you ask: “Given that any war causes some civilian deaths, how many are ‘justifiable’?” I assume that you are replying to those throughout the world — including many Jews — who are condemning what they see as Israel’s disproportionate answer, even if in self-defense, to the real or perceived threat of Hamas. These voices note the magnitude of the destruction, the targets (government buildings, hospitals, schools) and the high number of deaths in Gaza (a ratio of 100-to-1 throughout this war) — including hundreds of women and children — caused by Israel’s bombardments and military incursions.

Consider the following: What if 1,300 Jews were killed in fewer than three weeks by warring Arab states or by an Iranian attack, in response to a real or perceived threat? What if the attackers claimed that universities, schools, government buildings and hospitals were legitimate targets, given that they provide logistical support to or even hide the enemy? How would you to determine the “justifiable” number of Israeli civilian casualties? And what if the dead were all soldiers or reservists? Would these 1,300 Israeli deaths be “justifiable” for you?

As I read your January 23 editorial, I wonder whether Israel will ever recover her senses, if not some amount of basic human decency. As a Jewish American, I am doubly disgusted, grief-stricken and ashamed that my taxes have financed Israel’s attack on Gaza. As of now, never again will it be Hamas or anybody else that endangers Israel’s right to exist. It will be Israel’s own behavior, and that of those Jews throughout the world who have remained silent vis-à-vis the massacre of a defenseless population.

Claudia Chaufan
Santa Cruz, Calif.


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