Readers Respond

November 05, 2009

A grim anniversary in Gaza

In celebrating the one-year anniversary of President Obama's election night on Wednesday, I feel compelled to recognize a much grimmer anniversary, one that was far less reported and recognized in light of the historic presidential election. That other anniversary is of the Israeli raid on the Gaza Strip near Deir al-Balah on the night of Nov. 4, 2008. Readers will recall that the Israeli and Palestinian truce of June 2008 was signed with the understanding that both sides would cease their frequent attacks and that Israel would ease its crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip. This cease-fire, according to Amnesty International's annual report, "held for 4 1/2 months but broke down after Israeli forces killed six Palestinian militants on 4 November." An exchange of retaliatory attacks followed, eventually culminating on Dec. 27, the first of a 23-day-long military campaign that left 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead and thousands more seriously injured and homeless.

Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician working in relief operations in Gaza City, visited Baltimore last spring to speak at the Johns Hopkins medical campus. During his presentation, Dr. Gilbert gave his account of "horrific war injuries in numbers almost too large to comprehend."

He reported, along with the Red Cross and the UN, dozens of incidents of Israeli fire attacking ambulances, health staff and volunteers in clearly marked uniforms and vehicles. His testimony also spoke of the unlawful use of incendiary weapons on civilians during a time when foreign journalists were barred from the conflict zone. Notwithstanding the suppressed reporting from within Gaza, Dr. Gilbert's suspicions were eventually corroborated in the Israeli press by many Israeli soldiers who recounted permissive attacks on unsuspecting civilians and civil infrastructure.

Now, one year on, the nature and depth of the Gaza crisis has been formally recorded in a United Nations report by South African judge Richard Goldstone. Judge Goldstone himself is an international justice of impeccable record and thoughtful personal history. His report catalogs pervasive targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military, while also condemning armed Palestinian groups for firing rockets indiscriminately into Southern Israel. Its major shortcoming, according to a recent article he wrote in his defense, was the Israeli government's refusal to allow the UN fact finding mission to interview Israeli victims of rocket attacks.

And yet, on this anniversary of the broken cease-fire, our nation's House of Representatives is voting on a resolution to condemn the Goldstone report as "irredeemably biased" against Israel, despite all facts pointing to the contrary. The House resolution, co-sponsored by Maryland's own Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, is being carried without even a single congressional hearing on the Goldstone report. The representatives' outlandish condemnations do a massive injustice to the respected judge's mission and to our own credibility on issues of international humanitarian law.

Amir Mohareb, Baltimore

Stimulus fuzzy math

Most of us find it hard to comprehend millions and billions, much less trillions of dollars. In terms more easily understood, our government reports that they have spent $150 billion of the $787 billion in "stimulus" funds to create 650,000 jobs. That comes out to almost $231,000 per job.

The same amount of money could have created 650,000 jobs at $77,000 per year for three years, or 650,000 jobs at $58,000 per year for four years.

The problem is that none of these numbers is real. No one has gone out and counted actual jobs. It's all made up. The nonpartisan Americans for Tax Reform wrote:

"The data will show that the bulk of the jobs 'saved/created' are government jobs, mostly jobs in the unproductive sector of the economy furthering no economic growth and preventing necessary streamlining of an already bloated bureaucracy."

One must wonder how many real jobs would have been created if the same $150 billion had been distributed as tax reductions to businesses.

Benedict Frederick Jr., Pasadena

Why do some deaths seem to matter more?

While I offer my sincere condolences to the family of Miriam Frankl - the loss of a daughter is a pain I cannot even imagine - I cannot help but wonder why her death warrants the extended coverage not bestowed upon most of the other 186 Baltimore City homicide victims this year ("'A remarkable woman,'" Nov. 4). Why are we led to mourn some victims and yet directed to ignore many others who lost their lives in tragic, untimely ways?

Anna Martin, Baltimore

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