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(Update: Since posting this originally, the Times did finally post my comment…it’s #62 in the list).

Once again the New York Times editorial board has chosen not to post my comment on an editorial op-ed that they have published. In their op-ed, “A Way Out of Gaza?” the Times’ editorial board call for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and a return to peace negotiations as “the only real hope for guaranteeing Israel’s long-term security.” (“A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times, January 16, 2009). The Times starts the opinion piece with a bold statement : “We agree that Israel had to defend itself against Hamas’s rocket attacks” (“A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times, January 16, 2009) and then immediately backtrack as though the previous statement was a momentary lapse of reason. But what really irks me is that my comment, which is reasoned and balanced, is not worthy of acceptance whereas nearly all of the other comments, which are vociferously anti-Israel, are.

Here are some examples of the comments that the editorial board of the Times consider worthwhile to accept:

The NYT refuses to recognize the reality that Israel has gone berserk with indiscriminate violence. (comment #7, “A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times)

What are the boundaries between a “civilized war” and outright mass murder? I don’t know; as in many things, the best we can hope for are general principles that should be interpreted in good faith to specific situations. Here the principle of proportionality has been violated. Israel has crossed the line, in my humble opinion, between legitimate defense and an unjustifiable infliction of death to cow a populace into submission.(comment #16, “A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times)

Despite tragic loss of lives, near complete destruction of infrastructure and homes in Gaza, it is clearly evident that the occupying regime has failed to accomplish any of their objectives. Additionally the onslaught has become a public relation disaster for the Zionist camp.(comment #29, “A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times)

It’s really nauseating to hear about Israel’s right to defend itself when that terrorist nation is murdering in cold blood hundreds of people everyday.(comment #31, “A Way Out of Gaza“, The New York Times)

In a blatant attempt to claim that they are “balanced,” the New York Times editorial board intersperses between the venemous anti-Israel comments a token few comments from individuals, mostly in Israel, supporting Israel’s case in this conflict. But if you submit a truly “balanced” comment as I did, don’t bother…the editorial board doesn’t want to hear it. It doesn’t “add” to the conversation apparently. So, having had my say, I give you the text of my comment:

It never ceases to astound me that the world is content to sit quietly by while Isrealis die from continual rocket barrages by Hamas (even during a 6 month “truce”) and then when Israel says “enough is enough” and goes to take care of the problem the first thing the world says is “let’s make nice.” How can Israel be expected to make “nice” with Hamas when it’s sole aim is the destruction of the state of Israel along with the concommitant explusion or mass extermination of the Jews there? You talk about the conditions for peace. Peace will only happen when the Palestinians truly accept that Israel is the Jewish homeland, that Jews have a right to live there in peace and quiet and when the Palestinian leadership understands that the two-state solution is their only option.

You mention that President Abbas “believes in a two-state solution” — a statement which is not credible since the PA still displays the entire land of Palestine on their emblem. In addition, the findings of a February 2007 report by the Palestine Media Watch on the content of 12th grade Palestinian schoolbooks show that students are systematically taught that Israel does not have a right to exist nor do the Jews have any ties to the land. I find your claim that Abbas truly believes in a two-state solution specious given the evidence.

A two-state solution IS the only way out – but all parties must be committed to this solution — completely. Israel must be willing to make the hard sacrifice of stopping the settlements and to help develop the economy of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. However, the Palestinians must truly be committed to this as well…and that means abandoning Hamas, abandoning terror, and embracing coexistence. Lip service from both sides will simply prolong the conflict and result in the death of many more innocent lives that are caught in the middle — both Palestinian AND Israeli.

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Of all the unlikely stories I thought I would ever read in the New York Times this was one of them. Normally I expect the Times to take the most left-leaning perspective and just slam Israel for anything that it does especially when it comes to Palestinians. It makes me wonder why I even bother to read the New York Times anymore (or the Washington Post for that matter). But this story just had my jaw dropping. Here was a semi-balanced piece that somehow slipped through the Times’ editor’s fingers. Here’s just a sample:

Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital

(Erlanger, Steven, “A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery“, The New York Times, January 10, 2009)

Who would have thought that Hamas would hide their weapons inside of mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses. And on top of that, running their war from a bunker underneath a hospital! Isn’t this what Israel has been saying all along…and said about Hezbollah’s conduct of their operations during the war in the north of Israel 2 and 1/2 years ago? But it didn’t matter to the New York Times that that was the case…in their editor’s minds Israel was still in the wrong for even daring to fight. But it gets better,

Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.

In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building’s main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.

In an interview, the reporter, Ron Ben-Yishai, a senior military correspondent for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said soldiers also found a pile of weapons with a grenade launcher on top. When they moved the launcher, “they saw a detonator light up, but somehow it didn’t go off.”

(Erlanger, Steven, “A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery“, The New York Times, January 10, 2009)

Here is how Hamas really works. And if it’s not enough for the world to read it in the New York Times (as the saying goes “you can’t believe everything you read”) then here’s a video showing how Hamas booby trapped a school and a zoo to blow it up when Israeli soldiers entered it…a school where children learn

While I’m saddened by the tragedy that the everyday Palestinian suffers in Gaza, the Israelis are not the ones who are fighting dirty. It’s the Hamas terrorists who feel that civilian shields, booby trapped houses and schools and launching rockets and mortars from civilian areas are legitimate fighting techniques. They’re the ones who violate international law and perpetrate war crimes against humanity. Israel cannot tolerate rockets being rained down upon its citizenry — not on a sporadic basis and certainly not on a continual basis.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times penned an op-ed yesterday titled “The Gaza Boomerang” in which he excoriates Israel for their incursion into Gaza. He notes that

Since the shelling from Gaza started in 2001, 20 Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets or mortars, according to a tabulation by Israeli human rights groups. That doesn’t justify an all-out ground invasion that has killed more than 660 people (it’s difficult to know how many are militants and how many are civilians)

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “The Gaza Boomerang“, The New York Times, January 8 2009)

Sitting in an office a few thousand miles away Mr. Kristof balances the lives of 20 people on the one hand and 660 people on the other (which is probably more now) and says that the 20 people are not worth the 660 people. He uses this balance to say make the old tired response that Israel’s response is “disproportionate.” Israel, as Mr. Kristof believes, should simply have bombed the tunnels which Hamas is using to smuggle weapons into the Gaza strip or, better yet, eased the blockade of the Gaza strip in the hopes that in would have created “an environment in which Hamas would have extended the cease-fire.”

Whether Hamas would have extended the cease-fire or not we will never know now. I’m betting that they wouldn’t. They would have used the easing of a blockade to arm themselves with probably even more deadlier rockets as well as unleased their legions of suicide bombers on Israel. This sort of thinking originates from the Munich Pact of 1938 in which France, Britain, and Germany met to discuss Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland (at the time part of the country of Czechoslovakia). Hitler reassured Britain’s prime minister Neville Chamberlain that if Germany was given the Sudetenland than he (Hitler) would make no more claims on the territory of it’s neighbors. Chamberlain went back to Britain with the pact in hand and proclaimed that he had secured “peace for our time.” Not long after, in March of 1939, Hitler’s army invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia and we all know the rest of the story.

Mr. Kristof’s naive assertion that if only Israel had made “nice” with Hamas then Hamas would make “nice” with Israel is completely off. It smacks of Gollum‘s quote in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, “We’ll be nice to them, if they’ll be nice to us” — well, we all now how that ended. Gollum betrayed Sam and Frodo, tried to kill them and managed, albeit only briefly, to capture the One Ring for himself. Israel cannot afford to make “nice” with an organization that continually professes that it’s sole aim is the destruction of Israel with the concomittant explusion or mass murder of all Jews from their land. And Mr. Kristof clearly doesn’t understand that – it doesn’t enter into his calculus.

Hamas can easily bring an end to the Gaza tragedy it it would stop raining rockets down on Israel (which, just before the current fighting was around 60 per day), stop sending suicide bombers into Israeli cafes, shops, synagoguges, and malls, and realizes that a two-state solution is the only way to end this festering, open sore of a conflict. Instead, they only wish to continue the cycle of violence (which leads to Israeli retaliation which, in itself also contributes to the cycle).

The 20 Israeli lives that have been lost to the Hamas rain of rockets over the past 8 years (it’s been going on since 2001) are just as meaningful and valid as the Palestinian lives lost over the past two weeks. Those 20 were someone mother, father, child, brother, and sister. This is not a game of numbers that defines how hard Israel is allowed to strike back against an organization that is determined to see its destruction. It’s a question of survival. Israel’s response has to be strong enough that Hamas will think twice in the future of whether they want to keep the count going up to 21, 22 or beyond. It has to be strong enough that Hamas will realize that true peace comes with being willing to live with your neighbors rather than sitting and waiting to cut their throats whenever they let their guard down.

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