January 15, 2009

Humanitarian crisis afflicts people of Gaza

Under the heading "Equal rights for enemies?" (Commentary, Jan. 12), Allan Richarz offers an unqualified defense of Israel's attacks on Gaza and on Lebanon in 2006 and takes issue with the international condemnation of Israel's disproportionate violence.

His arguments, although logical, overlook key aspects of the situation, perhaps because American media sources are so limited in their coverage of facts that are obvious to the rest of the world but uncomfortable for a staunchly pro-Israel U.S. government.

Among these facts are that Gaza's citizens have been living under Israeli blockade off and on since June 2007 and constantly since November. The United Nations and most of the civilized world have decried this Israeli blockade because of the humanitarian impact of restricting food, medicine and fuel supplies to this overcrowded, impoverished and effectively imprisoned area.

Israel also continues to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank that even the very pro-Israel Bush administration doesn't support, with no regard for justice, international law or Palestinian needs or interests there.

But perhaps the most profound evidence yet that Israel has lost its way comes in its words rather than its violence.

Gaza is currently experiencing a serious and well-documented humanitarian crisis; no one who has been there would argue otherwise.

Yet the Israeli government repeatedly denies this, saying that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

This is particularly shocking to me coming as it does within living memory of a time that so vividly illustrated the high costs, in Jewish lives, of public denial of injustice and human suffering.

Sue Battle-McDonald, Timonium

Blockade of Gaza violated the truce

There is so much to take exception to in Allan Richarz's column "Equal rights for enemies?" (Commentary, Jan. 12). But I would like to focus on a couple of points:

* Hamas didn't abandon its truce with Israel. Israel did this in November when it entered Gaza and killed six Palestinians, in addition to other military forays into Gaza. Hamas has repeatedly offered a truce if Israel would agree to lift the blockade on Gaza.

* Israel never kept its part of the truce, which would have necessitated lifting the crippling embargo.

This, of course, is the basis for Gazans' anger at Israel.

And regarding the notion of "proportional" response, can you imagine the uproar if the Palestinians had the capability to impose a total blockage on Israel and then added to that crime by invading a relatively helpless country, killing large numbers of the population?

If Israel really feels that it is in the right, why has it not allowed reporters into Gaza?

Obviously it does not want the real horrors of its attack to be made public.

Doris Rausch, Ellicott City

Oliver works hard for his constituents

Baltimore County Council member Kenneth N. Oliver has represented part of my community since 2002 ("Questions undermine successes," Jan. 9). As a past president who is now a board member of the Villa Nova Community Association, I have always found Mr. Oliver interested in and responsive to the community's needs and requests.

He attends many of our functions, either as a speaker or as an interested observer.

I do not find the characterization of him as "inactive" and "unreceptive" accurate.

Robert Landau, Randallstown

Ban phoning, texting while driving in Md.

As the 2009 General Assembly begins its session, it is of utmost importance that we urge our delegates and senators to pass "Heather's Law," a comprehensive ban on hand-held cell phones and text-messaging while driving in Maryland ("The Annapolis agenda," editorial, Jan. 12).

As recent studies have shown, the use of these technologies while driving is a dangerous practice that may be as deadly as driving while intoxicated.

Drivers on a cell phone are slower to brake, which causes an increase in rear-end collisions like the one that killed my daughter Heather.

In addition, drivers on a cell phone are also slower to resume normal speed, which causes increased traffic jams and fuel use.

Russell Hurd, Abingdon

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