Israeli offensive in Gaza
Madam, — There was one worthwhile point (and I was at pains to find one) that could be extracted from Hikmat Ajjuri's account of the latest Middle East conflagration (Opinion, January 8th). Mr Ajjuri writes that "the best we could have achieved via bilateral peace negotiations was the Oslo agreement". He then claims that Oslo "has been in a coma since the assassination of. . .Yitzhak Rabin".
Many would say that the Oslo process died at the moment the young Jewish extremist Yigal Amir pulled his trigger. In actual fact, the principal factor in its downfall was the murderous campaign of suicide bombings initiated by Hamas from April 1993 onwards, which killed over 130 and injured hundreds more over the course of five years. Hamas was then a marginal terrorist group which commanded paltry support among Palestinians, yet this did not deter it from torpedoing an internationally supported agreement with its destructive and perverse cult of Islamic martyrdom.
This ought to put a different perspective on the current conflict, particularly when one is asked to take account of the supposed "democratic legitimacy" of Hamas, trumpeted time and again by its cheerleaders both in Ireland and in the West generally.
There is therefore a clear link between the derailing of Oslo and the impasse that we now see in the Middle East: it is the presence of a fundamentalist, terrorist, Islamist group which adheres to an anti-Semitic, illiberal ideology and displays utter contempt for human life, both Arab and Jewish; a group upon which a thousand election victories could not endow the slightest shred of legitimacy. - Yours, etc,
Centre Culturel Irlandais,
Madam, - Despite his name, Allan Solomon (January 7th) has no monopoly of wisdom. However, with regard to the analogy I made between the situation in the Warsaw Ghetto and that prevailing at the moment in Gaza, the following points might be borne in mind.
1. In Gaza a sizeable ethnic group is concentrated in a tiny area under the arrogant and contemptuous supervision of military overlords.
2. This entire population group has been slowly strangled in preparation for military incursion.
3. There has been an almost total collapse in terms of sewage, food and energy delivery as well as medical facilities.
4. The outside world has been deliberately kept at bay and apart from Al-Jazeera virtually no independent reporting is permitted while the noose has been remorselessly tightened.
5. There have been attempts on the part of the besieged to overcome supply difficulties through the digging of tunnels.
6. Resistance has been organised by commando groups and this has been met by the unleashing of a massive mechanised assault.
It has been argued that Israel made an altruistic gesture by leaving Gaza, that the ceasefire was broken by Hamas and that Hamas itself is a terrorist organisation. I am not naturally disposed to support Hamas, about whose origins and policies I have serious reservations. However, I would point out:
(a) Hamas was legitimately elected in Gaza by an internationally monitored ballot but was boycotted and further financially punished at the behest of Israel and the US as a result of this completely democratic decision. Shamefully, the European Union, including Ireland, collaborated in this.
(b) The evacuation of Gaza had become a military and political necessity and was accompanied by a substantial increase in illegal settlements in the West Bank. Moreover it neatly prepared the way for the bombardment of the entire Gaza area. It is inconceivable that the Israeli government would allow settlers to share the same fate as the Palestinians and so they had to be removed.
(c) The emergence of Hamas was deliberately fostered by the Israeli authorities in an attempt to draw support away from their then target, Yasser Arafat and Fatah. That this backfired in much the same way as the US government's early funding and promotion of Osama bin Laden is scarcely the fault of the Palestinian people.
(d) The Israeli government itself bears significant responsibility for the break down of the ceasefire. Rocket attacks from Gaza had dwindled to negligible proportions until the Israeli military services penetrated Gaza and murdered five Palestinians. The Israelis also failed completely to live up to the requirement that they should loosen the siege on Gaza.
That international human rights law is being flouted is made clear by the deliberate targeting of civilian installations such as schools and hospitals.
I would like to put on record that some time ago I personally visited the two UN-sponsored schools that were attacked. I saw no evidence of anything approaching a Palestinian military context, nor did I detect any hatred of Israel among staff or students. What I did witness was the constant undercurrent of fear.
Anyone who witnessed the terrible grief of parents in the aftermath of the carnage there will know that no further words are necessary. - Yours, etc,
Senator DAVID NORRIS,
Madam, - One wonders if Ireland, with its history of active neutrality and involvement in conflict resolution and an unblemished history in the Middle East, might not be ideally positioned to lead the world in exploring imaginative alternatives to the deadlock there.
I am a British Jew living and working in Ireland with a great love for my heritage and faith — which I believe to be one of compassion, knowledge, wisdom and humanity. The current conflict seems to be deeply antithetical to these core Jewish values which I inherited from my parents, my grandparents and my Jewish educators.
There are large numbers of Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel-Palestine and worldwide who are opposed to violence but must feel as powerless and voiceless as I do in the face of the current catastrophic events. Can Ireland help to give us a voice and explore a compassionate and humane alternative to this long war? Shalom, Salaam and may peace be upon us all. - Yours, etc,
Madam, - Some people in Ireland are fond of the saying, "The closed mouth never did any harm".
I've never liked it much because it is so often a rationale for cowardice. I'd rather focus on the contrary view that "for evil to triumph, it requires only that good people do nothing".
Where is president-elect Obama's voice of protest against the assault on Gaza? His closed mouth is doing a great deal of harm. - Yours, etc,