Absence of religious values

There is, I think, a great many people who blame the practice of religious principles for many of the world's conflicts and wars.

But is this true or appropriate? Take for example the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see its perpetuation resulting from an absence of religious values, namely the sincere and devotional practice of forgiving and forgetting those who do you harm.

And for that matter, where is the forbearance, the spirit of generosity, the kindness, the brotherhood, and the self-sacrifice to be found in those caught up in any of these ongoing conflicts?

Ironically, perhaps the actual living in accord with spiritually-minded precepts would prove to be the best remedy for this conflict; it is certainly far from being its root cause.

Ron Greenstein

El Cerrito

Justice for Palestinians

It is distressing that Evie Groch, in her Jan. 11 letter, joins the chorus of Zionists who deny the Palestinians any claim to nationhood, and distorts the context of past statements by Arab leaders expressing pan-Arab sentiments of solidarity.

She would even have readers believe that Yasser Arafat himself rejected any claim of Palestinian nationality. She might note that his life's work was the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Groch's characterization of Hamas' attacks on Israel as "unprovoked" reveals a remarkable ignorance of the facts of life for Palestinians in Gaza and all of occupied Palestine.

The great prison of Gaza teems with provoked people, many of whom were provoked by being driven from their homes and homeland in 1948, provoked by the loss of family members in that conflict and those that followed, and provoked by decades of brutal occupation.

Since the end of occupation in 2005 and the election of Hamas in 2006, Gaza has been besieged, isolated and subjected to collective punishment for its elective choice. Collective punishment, an internationally recognized war crime, is slowly strangling life in that unfortunate territory to such an extent that it risks becoming uninhabitable by the year 2020, according to a U.N. report.

When your community is provoked by continuous attack from a power that presently holds all the trump cards and is bent on your destruction, what can you do?

Firing rockets into Israel is not useful. Few of them cause casualties, make craters comparable only to potholes in our local streets, and bring retribution from 21st century weapons. Appeals for justice to the international community are turned aside by Israel's great enabler. "Israel has a right to defend itself," was the provocative assessment by our president of Israel's madly disproportionate "Cast Lead" assault on Gaza.

Perhaps, as American domination in international affairs declines, post-World War II anti-colonial activism will revive to bring justice to Palestine.

Larry Waldron

Berkeley

Pitts column was degrading

I felt compelled to write this retort to Leonard Pitts' Jan. 14 column in the Times, "How black is black enough? Not Frederick Douglass."

Pitts stated he's a black man. Yet, his column screams such racism and stereotypical comments that it's hard to believe Pitts is black.

I am offended the Times allowed such a degrading column be printed in the great liberal state of California, especially in the wonderful East Bay area. Yes, I realize Pitts is located in Miami.

It shouldn't matter how Republican or the number of white girls a brother has, but it surely raises "flags." The young man who stated this truth surely shouldn't have been punished to the degree of losing his job.

My deepest offense is Pitts' closing comments: "Surely, Rob Parker knows this. Or if he didn't before, he does now. As for being black enough, he is probably a greater expert than he was before. He is, after all, a man out of work. It doesn't get much blacker than that."

Is Pitts insinuating that because of his blackness he is accustomed to being unemployed? I pray that this was either a misprint or a slip of the lip and that he might not find himself in the same boat.

Lucinda Williams

Richmond

Headquarter U.N. elsewhere

Most of the United Nations hate Jews.

They could never make a fair decision about the Palestinians, who are controlled by terrorists who want to kill all Jews. The terrorists hate us and they hate Jews.

Most of this area was the land of the Jews 3,000 years ago. The Jews occupy only a small part of what was originally theirs.

More than 12,000 rockets have been launched at the Jews in the last three years. Palestinian terrorists build their rocket launchers next to schools, residential areas and hospitals. Should they have more Jewish land so they could kill all the Jews much sooner?

Most U.N. members almost always vote against Israel. Why do we allow the United Nations to be headquartered in the United States? We should give them five years to build another headquarters in France. Good riddance!

Sidney Steinberg

Berkeley

Different view of Sowell

In recent weeks several people have written criticizing Thomas Sowell. I think it is time for a different viewpoint.

It has even been suggested that the Times drop his column. I would be appalled if the Times gave into this pressure. The Times has a right, and even a responsibly, to print divergent viewpoints.

Sowell and others have a right to express opinions and even to criticize President Barack Obama, just as those with opposite viewpoints have their rights.

I believe his Jan. 11 column should be read by every American. Sowell warns us that we are heading in the wrong direction. We are tiptoeing around and sugarcoating some words and phrases for fear we might offend someone; our history books are degrading our history; teachers are no longer teaching students to think for themselves; and we are moving toward a socialistic country.

If some Times readers have "had enough" of Sowell, they should turn the page and move on.

Marlyn M. Kauk

Richmond

Not satisfied with deal

I agree Congress needed to do something about the "fiscal cliff" and, therefore, am glad they voted yes on that less-than-perfect bill. But I'm not satisfied with the compromise by any means.

I'm glad the unemployed didn't get abandoned, but I'm upset oligarchs will continue to avoid estate taxes, creating a new American aristocracy.

I'm glad the poor- and middle-classes will retain their lower income tax rates, but I'm upset the price is that corporatocracy can still avoid paying their fair share.

I'm glad the wealthiest will now pay 13 percent more income taxes, but I'm upset that working Americans' share of payroll taxes will climb 47.6 percent with the elimination of the payroll-tax holiday.

I'm upset the wealthy still pay lower effective tax rates than working people do, due to the vastly favorable tax treatment of unearned vs. earned income, including escaping any Social Security taxes from investment income.

I'm upset the wealthy mostly escape the largest tax hit the workingman pays through the cap on payroll taxes.

Despite this legislation, America's income disparity grows unabated.

Ed Chainey

Richmond