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?


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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

Guns should not be banned

Contrary to Terry Horner's hoplophobic letter in the Times on Jan. 11, there should be no banning of guns and no confiscation of the guns of law-abiding citizens.

Such actions would violate the Second Amendment individual right to keep and bear arms, as upheld by the Supreme Court in the Chicago and Washington, D.C. cases.

Law-abiding citizens owning guns for lawful purposes -- self-defense, hunting, target shooting, plinking, collectors' items -- aren't willing to give up their right for several reasons.

They uphold the Second Amendment right of law-abiding citizens to make their own decisions about whether to own a gun or not. They wish to make their own decisions about how to protect themselves in their homes.

They realize, as Horner doesn't, that having their guns confiscated would do nothing to protect children or reduce crime. It would increase crime, because the criminals, who would retain their guns, would know their prospective victims were disarmed by government fiat.

Law-abiding citizens who are responsible gun owners aren't willing to be used as scapegoats and blamed for the actions of criminals.

If Horner chooses not to own guns, that's his business. He has no business trying to impose his point of view on law-abiding citizens who do.

David R. Russell

Berkeley

Culture of death, violence

When you boil it all down to a vile essence, American weapons and violence show to my eyes few if any signs of going away, now or ever.

To the contrary, we see drones proliferating, unoccupied, remotely controlled cameras a-clicking, bullets a-spraying, and bombs a-dropping -- soon for police use and even for corporate and civilian uses -- after their huge ongoing success, legal or otherwise, in the Middle East and after endless promotion in the big media.

And we witness a spike in gun sales as talk of controls rolls forward.

Then there looms and mounts the value of Wall Street stocks of certain weapons makers, abundantly found, oh-so-ironically, in teacher retirement fund portfolios.

This whole drone phenomenon comes hot on the trail, following the slaughter-oriented, large-clip, large-caliber rifles/machine guns aimed at American civilians, here in apple-pie United States.

Always, they're advertised and promoted as essentially aimed at controlling criminals, terrorists, insurgents, revolutionaries, pinkos, commies, mobs, "violent" marching, sign-wielding protesters, anti-Americans, and the like.

Guns, in our American empire and in films and video games, surround us in star roles of the security and entertainment industries, along with other favorites: alcohol, tobacco, and violence (see author Jared Diamond's book, "Guns, Steel and Germs").

America's biggest technology export: weaponry from guns and bombs to jets, missiles and their robotized variations. Can we honestly expect anything but steady increases in kill-capacity and efficiency if American capitalism is involved?

Refinements, improvements and incessant promotion and advertising stand and march as the American capitalist way. We eschew regulation as interfering, anti-American, distasteful.

We Americans daily absorb the bespattered latest news, wring our bloody hands, then adjust ... ignoring the massive slaughter and death in Iraq (possibly as much as one million) and elsewhere, on the American roads, in the American ghettos, and in our exceedingly blood-drenched American history.

One can only assume continued American blindness to the agonies of traumatized or injured soldiers (not to mention foreign civilians), to concussed football players of all ages, to crowded and helpless prisoners, to the tortured, innocent or otherwise, as well to whole species of non-humans.

Will this living tornado of activity all suddenly dive into a screeching U-turn after some new outrage? Will we suddenly learn civilization, one wonders?

Or are we Americans perhaps nicely adjusted to and (should I whisper it) happy with our culture of death?

Terry Cochrell

Berkeley

Absence of religious values

There are, I think, 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