Israeli offensive in Gaza

 

Madam, – The Israeli ambassador’s polemic of January 9th (“Israel’s actions necessary so our citizens can live in peace”) is a misuse of history. People with traumatic memories tend to block out parts of their own past.

Mr Zion Evrony is selective with the truth. To accuse Fintan O’Toole of intellectual dishonesty is disingenuous. Mr O’Toole did not equate Israel with Nazi Germany. As usual, he got to the heart of the matter by showing the sad reality of Victor Hugo’s dictum: yesterday’s oppressed can become today’s oppressors.

The one thing Israel has not displayed is a willingness to accept UN Resolution 242 and return to its internationally recognised borders. Such an initiative would transform the Middle East conflict, break the cycle of hatred and violence, and undermine Islamic fundamentalism more quickly than pursuing a futile military solution. — Yours, etc,

BRENDAN Ó CATHAOIR,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

Madam, – The mental somersaults that must have taken place in Senator David Norris’s mind to reach the conclusion that he only has “serious reservations” about Hamas (January 12th) are amazing. The irony that Hamas would kill Senator Norris in a heartbeat for the “crime” of being homosexual would be funny were it not so tragic for those who suffer every day in regimes controlled by Hamas and its supporters and who can only dream of the sort of human rights and freedoms enjoyed by Israeli citizens.

It also seems to have slipped Senator Norris’s mind that Hamas received 440,409 (44.45 per cent) of votes cast in the 2006 election while Fatah received 410,554 (41.43 per cent). Hardly a resounding mandate for Hamas. It was the quirks of the list and constituency system used which gave Hamas an advantage in seats.

Senator Norris won’t be unaware that the Nazis were also elected to power. – Yours, etc,

DESMOND FITZGERALD,

Canary Wharf,

London E14.

Madam,- The Irish Times’s commitment to balanced analysis of the Gaza crisis has produced a large number of articles and letters which support the Israeli offensive with an unchanging chorus of arguments. These remind us that Israel is a small democratic country surrounded by hostile enemies who are bent on its destruction and against whom it has the right to defend itself. They also emphasise the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas.

While these claims are valid, their use to justify the oppression of an entire people has reached morbidly surreal proportions. The tendency to represent both sides by balancing a letter or opinion piece which opposes the Israeli offensive with one that supports it belies the fact that this is nowhere near an equal situation.

In following this principle The Irish Timeshas given ample exposure to the rhetoric of commentators such as Senator Eoghan Harris (January 9th) and the more polished sophistry of the Israeli embassy. These analyses are completely disconnected from international law, from the brutal, indiscriminate reality of Israeli military operations and even from recent facts such as the breach of the Gaza ceasefire on November 4th. Yet they constitute roughly half the space allocated to this issue.

Allotting roughly equal column space to supporters and opposers of this illegal, outrageous incursion maintains an impression that the suffering of Israelis is of similar proportion to that of Palestinians. This policy also entrenches the notion that commentary on this conflict involves taking a side: you’re “pro-Israeli” or “pro-Palestinian”. Let us not contribute to these distortions with a misguided sense of what constitutes balanced journalism and let us all be on the side of human rights – for Israelis and Palestinians. – Yours, etc,

LIAM QUAIDE,

Lower Mayor Street,

Dubin 1.

Madam, – “Anti-Israeli sentiment is but a thinly veiled form of anti-Semitism” — this old refrain has been identified by eminent US researchers Mearsheimer and Walt (pub. London 2006) as a hugely successful ploy by America’s powerful “Israel Lobby” to stifle democratic debate on Israel in US public circles.

What with the flurry of accusations against politicians for even the mildest criticism of the war crimes currently taking place before our eyes, one may argue that something similar is being attempted here.

I have long harboured the impression that people of Jewish origin have produced proportionately more champions of liberty and social justice than most other peoples – due, perhaps, to their own bitter experience of being denied these rights.

Yet Israel’s international role has largely been the reverse of this tradition: it is in breach of more United Nations resolutions and international law, such as it exists, than any nation since the foundation of the world body over half-a-century ago. Its security forces have acted as advisers to military dictatorships in Latin America and elsewhere in the world and Israel was the most unashamed supporter of apartheid South Africa.

We are told there are some within Israel who do not subscribe to official Israeli policy. We know there are many prominent Jews outside Israel who totally oppose it. Far from being anti-Semitic, one could easily argue that to support present Israeli policies is counter to the Jewish tradition. – Yours, etc,

BILLY FITZPATRICK,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Madam, – The 41 Oireachtas members who signed the letter in last Friday’s edition are right to support the creation of a secure and independent Palestine living alongside a secure and independent Israel. No other long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is feasible. However, no such solution can be achieved while Palestinian fundamentalist groups such as Hamas are opposed to any such arrangement and resolutely committed to the total destruction of the Israeli state.

Of course, the mere creation of a Palestinian state is not enough to end conflict permanently. Such a state must be prepared to live in peace alongside Israel as its neighbour and this has long been recognised by the international community and successive Irish governments. It is curious that the importance of this is ignored by the 41 Oireachtas signatories. Of course it is not only this that they choose to ignore.

They allege that Israel has acted disproportionately and in a manner counter-productive to achieving security for the people of Israel or peace in the Middle East. They choose to ignore that Hamas has rejected every peace initiative since Oslo 1 in 1993; murdered over 500 men, women and children in Israel and injured and maimed thousands in suicide bombing campaigns to sabotage peace initiatives; is sponsored and armed by Iran, whose president and other leaders have repeatedly publicly advocated that Israel be wiped off the map; fired over 5,000 rockets into Israel since its evacuation from the Gaza Strip in August 2005; launched 215 rockets at Israel from Gaza during the 2008 lull; used the lull to smuggle into Gaza substantial weaponry through hundreds of tunnels dug under the border with Egypt; and unilaterally rejected a continuation of any lull or ceasefire, launching an average of 80 rockets and missiles a day into Israeli towns and cities in the first week of its ending.

My Oireachtas colleagues also choose to ignore that Hamas in its commitment to Jihad and advocacy of death and martyrdom has turned Gaza into a terrorist entity in which it has terrorised thousands of Palestinians, murdered hundreds of Fatah supporters during its takeover of Gaza in June 2007 and boasted of using women, children and the elderly as human shields.

Under Article 51 of the UN Charter Israel is entitled to defend its citizens and prevent subsequent attack and states are entitled to take the action necessary to defeat an adversary’s military capacity and overcome it. There is a tragic inevitability of civilian deaths in the current conflict. However, there is no moral equivalence between the wilful murder of civilians, which is the objective of every Hamas rocket fired, and Israel’s targeting of combatants and stored armaments, resulting in the accidental and tragic death of civilians due to Hamas deliberately launching rockets and maintaining such storage in densely populated areas. Those who criticise Israel for a lack of proportionality are essentially arguing that Israel has no right to take effective action to defend and protect its citizens and are playing into the hands of fundamentalist propaganda.

On occasions members of the Oireachtas suffer collective amnesia. This State, as part of the EU, which is a member of the International Quartet (EU, Russia, USA, UN), has since the Palestinian elections set three conditions for Hamas involvement in the peace process. They are that Hamas recognises Israel, accepts previous agreements concluded between Israel and the Palestinians, and ends terrorism. Hamas has not only refused to do so but has, with the support of Iran, continued to advocate its genocidal policies and its objective of perpetrating a second Holocaust.

If Hamas chose the path of peace and economic development instead of Jihad and terrorism, there would today be no conflict in Gaza. If Iran encouraged the achievement of peaceful resolution instead of advocating Israel’s total destruction, the peace that both I and my Oireachtas colleagues desire in the Middle East might be achievable. Perhaps they might reflect on this. And when Chris Andrews TD ends his obsession with calling for the expulsion of Zion Evrony, the Israeli ambassador, he might make a genuine contribution to the peace process by talking to the Iranian ambassador and demanding a change of policy by the Iranian government.

Should he fail to effect such change, he may then want to consider calling for the Iranian ambassador’s expulsion. – Yours, etc,

ALAN SHATTER TD,

Dáil Éireann,

Dublin 2.

Madam, – On Sunday a number of people calling themselves “Christian supporters of Israel”, including members of the Irish Christian Friends of Israel, prayed and demonstrated outside the Dáil and the Israeli embassy. To all intents and purposes they were praying for the slaughter of Palestinian Muslims and Christians at the hands of the Israeli army to continue.

I wish to ask a straight question: are these people Christian Zionists? In that event, do they believe in the central tenets of that doctrine, which include support for the total occupation of Palestine by Jews, leading to the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ?

If these are indeed their views, do they also believe that at “the end of days” 144,000 Jews will be “perfected” by converting to Christianity, while the rest will burn in Hell for all eternity?

If so, then I would maintain they are friends neither of Israel nor of the Jewish people. – Yours, etc,

RAYMOND DEANE,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Madam, – I read with interest the letter of January 9th from members of the Oireachtas. In the course of their condemnation of the state of Israel, the politicians state that “Palestinian rocket attacks that traumatise the lives of communities in southern Israel are also utterly unacceptable”.

I have a simple question for the authors of this righteous tirade. Why, if they regarded the 5,000 rockets fired at Israel over the past six months as “unacceptable”, did they never write a letter to The Irish Times condemning them? Where was their sense of “outrage” when terrified Israelis were fleeing for their lives?

It would appear from this letter that our politicians have once again exposed themselves for the moral hypocrites that they are. – Yours, etc,

Dr RUAIRI HANLEY,

Drogheda,

Co Louth.

Madam, - Apologists for Israel’s ongoing action, such as the Israeli Ambassador, Tom Carew and Senator Eoghan Harris, miss the point at issue. Consequently, their arguments can have no effect on the people they want to persuade.

The point is that people in Ireland and elsewhere are horrified by the amount and nature of the killing which Israel is engaging in. This is happening against the background of the past 20 years in which Israel has been, after the US, the world’s principal killer nation. “And here they go again,”, people are thinking — “cruel, arrogant, flaunting the superiority and killing power of their armaments against a weak, virtually defenceless people — men, women and children.”

Until the defenders of Israel show that the amount and nature of Israeli killing is justified and necessary, they might as well say nothing. People see the horror on television and in the newspapers, are naturally horrified, loathe the state that is doing the killing, and arguments about other matters pass them by. – Yours, etc,

Dr DESMOND FENNELL,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Madam, – The calls by Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews to expel the Israeli ambassador is pointless populist rhetoric, crudely wrong and ironic in the extreme given our attitude to Nazi diplomats during the second World War. More importantly, it is self defeating.

Every means of communication should remain open. The ambassador should be called to the Department of Foreign Affairs and our Minister should directly let him know of our justifiable concerns and condemnation of the disproportionate Israeli response in Gaza. And we should continue to use this channel to apply pressure on Israel, in conjunction with some form of EU agreed sanctions, so that it might come to realise that its policies have been and continue to be an obstacle to sustainable peace in the region. – Yours, etc,

Cllr JIM O’LEARY (FG),

Dundrum,

Dublin 16.