Letters to the Editor

February 1, 2008

Gaza I

The flooding into Egypt of hundreds of thousands of Gazans that followed the breaching of the barrier between those territories is testimony to the desperation and misery of the population of that small enclave. The events have underlined the failure of Israel's policy of putting Gaza under siege. This policy has failed to stop the firing of rockets on Israeli towns; it has failed to weaken the hold of Hamas on the territory or to obtain the release of the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Tactics of this nature have been tried repeatedly, and have failed.

We stand with the residents of Sderot and other border communities in Israel in demanding they be protected from rocket fire from Gaza. Israel has the right and obligation to bring such attacks to a halt. But Israel does not have the right to administer collective punishment and cause disproportionate suffering on the entire population of Gaza. Such attempts are morally wrong, and indeed counterproductive. The unfolding humanitarian tragedy undermines Israel's image at home and abroad, and is arousing criticism around the world. It has created an unprecedented opportunity to smuggle arms into Gaza, and has forced Egypt to become actively involved in the dispute.

We urge Israel to seek a new way forward similar to those proposed by several of Israel's military and security advisers. This would include ending the futile blockade of Gaza, and through diplomatic channels, opening a dialogue with Hamas about achieving a cease-fire or "hudna". A cease-fire would create the space needed both to address the humanitarian problems and to establish a dynamic political process. Such a process is not without risks. But the risks of spiralling violence, desperation and despair are many times greater.

Steve Brook, David Rothfield

Australian Jewish Democratic Society, Melbourne

Gaza II

In a segment of January 21 SBS World News broadcast there was a short interview between news anchor Amrita Cheema and Akram al Satari from the Al Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital in Gaza in which Cheema asked Satari: "Do you feel Hamas should be making some kind of compromise so as to ease the situation for its own people in Gaza?"

What a loaded question. So the Palestinians are responsible, it is subtly suggested, for their own plight!

What exactly do the selectors of such segments know about the history of Palestine, and the occupation of Palestinian lands by east European Zionists since 1948? (Note: Every Israeli PM since 1948 has his or her real or immediate ancestral origins in eastern Europe, and the same is true for all but two of the presidents).

If there were some historical perspective and knowledge, then a stupid question like the one poor Amrita was asked to ask would never have been asked.

Even more disturbing is the fact and the way in which she cut off an alternative story which might just blow the cover of her silly question: Just as Satari was proceeding to gently suggest that the question of "compromise" is inappropriate in the circumstances and represents a disturbing misunderstanding of the situation, he was not so politely cut off!

So, the fourth largest army in the world is strafing, strangling supplies, cutting off land, air and sea access, stealing land, bulldozing homes, making targeted assassinations of elected officials (with no remonstrations or criticism from the West) , building "security" walls. and now cutting off food, electricity and finances — all this directed against the original inhabitants of the land, who are basically unarmed.

How dare anyone compare a few rocket attacks out of self-defence and frustration with the massive, continuous and deliberate attacks over at least 40 years from air, land and sea, as part of a deliberate and documented plan of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from the land the Zionists have stolen.

Can we seriously imagine an Australian news report on occupied France in the early 1940s asking a resistance leader whether a short cessation of vexatious retaliatory attacks against bridges, railways and German occupation personnel, in a spirit of "compromise", might not bring some benefits to the French citizenry? With the suggestion to boot, that it is precisely these resistance tactics that are the very cause of the misery and plight of the French people. Give us a break, please!

Keith Atkinson, Auchenflower, Qld


I was disgusted to hear Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, praising the achievements of the Indonesian dictator Suharto following his death. Rudd said that Suharto was "a controversial figure in respect of human rights" (how delicately put!(, but did not mention that in coming to power in a military coup in 1965 Suharto was responsible for the killing of some one million people, many of whom were political dissidents or members of the Communist Party. This was one of bloodiest coups in history.

Nor did Rudd condemn Suharto for leading the brutal invasion and occupation of East Timor, which resulted in at least 200,000 East Timorese being murdered. The only thing that seems to be important Rudd's eyes is the fact that under Suharto and his successors Indonesia has been a reliable trading partner and a neoliberal economic collaborator. Rudd praised Suharto for achieving "significant economic growth".

Having travelled to Indonesia on a few occasions to meet with democracy activists there, I know that this "growth" did not trickle down to the masses of the people, who live in poverty. Nor did it lead to an increased quality of life or democracy for the majority of Indonesians.

It's clear whose side Rudd is on when it comes to Indonesia — the side of a ruthless and corrupt dictator rather than the side of the ordinary people who are happy to see him in his grave?

Susan Austin

West Hobart, Tas

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