Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Readers respond

(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

Warwick: Why single out Israel?
It is unfortunate that Pittsburgh City Councilmember Barbara Warwick’s opinion piece coincided with the holiday of Purim, when the Jewish people survived Haman’s plan for the genocide of all Jewish men, women and children (“We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine,” March 22). On Oct. 7, Hamas aspired to that same goal. Hamas continues to call for the genocide of all Jewish people, celebrated its barbarous acts and announced that, given the opportunity, it would repeat them.

We live in a world of widespread oppression, yet the focus of city councils, the media and universities is on Israel. Over 110 million people are now forcibly displaced worldwide, as a result of persecution, violence and torture, targeting minorities in most cases by their own governments. Over the last decade, nearly a half million people were killed in Syria by its brutal dictator, and 12 million have fled their homes. The protracted armed conflict in Yemen involves extensive human rights violations, with deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The attacks on food, water and health infrastructure have created a humanitarian crisis that leaves millions of Yemenis at risk of starvation. There is also devastation in Ethiopia, Somalia, China, Iran, North Korea and other countries.

With violence, deprivation and displacement so widespread, one might ask why Israel’s attempt to destroy a terrorist organization is focused on. All over the U.S. and Canada, city councils are considering resolutions demanding a complete cease-fire by Israel. If Israel stopped fighting terrorism, Hamas would have the chance to regroup to carry out its openly stated plans of continuing to kill. Israel must destroy the hundreds of miles of underground tunnels, paid for with humanitarian aid, that were built for the purpose of enabling mass murder.

I am sorry that Warwick has jumped on this hateful and massively-funded and coordinated bandwagon of calling upon Israel to discontinue its military engagement. I am sorry that she quotes statistics from a terrorist organization; that she isn’t protesting the outrageous kidnapping of hostages and demanding that our government rescue them; that she is not calling all of the above-mentioned countries to “affirm each other’s basic humanity.” I am sorry that she is not more concerned that in our own city, Jewish children do not know what it is like to go to a Jewish school, synagogue, wedding or even funeral without armed guards to protect them.

I am most sorry that my city council representative feels that she has to teach Jewish people the importance of life and peace. We are a people who are taught to value all human life, who have a passion for justice, whose daily prayers and sacred writings teach us to protect the vulnerable, and whose most repeated of all of our hundreds of commandments is to “love the stranger”— the outsider, the one in need, the person who is different.

Warwick tells us that “we must listen to and acknowledge each other’s lived experiences.” Please explain that to Hamas, who listened with celebration to their Jewish victims’ dying experiences.

Andrea Chester

Call for the release of the hostages and the surrender of Hamas
Issuing divisive declarations for overseas events — particularly those that are nuanced and complex — to be decreed in a committee vote, should be approached with caution (“We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine,” March 22).

Nobody in the Jewish and Israeli community wants war or bloodshed on either side of this conflict, which has existed in one form or another for millennia. What the Jewish and Israeli communities want is the right of Israel to exist as the safe and defensible historical homeland of the Jewish people.

Understanding the historical backdrop is essential for comprehending the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the current events in Israel. The potential adoption of a cease-fire resolution signifies a lack of belief in Israel’s right to self-defense, instilling fear among Jewish residents and failing to serve the best interests of both Palestinians and Israelis.

The war that Israel is fighting is not and has never been against the Palestinian people but against religious extremism that seeks to exclude Israel and Jews from any future state.

We clearly do not have the solution to this current crisis that was thrust upon the people of Israel, but we also don’t think that the City Council has the solution.

Hamas has the ability to surrender and free the hostages at any time. A call for this by the U.N. or any number of government bodies could save countless lives on both sides.

Any potential cease-fire resolution should be inspiring solidarity, not divisiveness.

It should serve the best interests of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Call for the surrender of Hamas and the release of all hostages.

Eva and Dan Gelman
Mt. Lebanon

We deserve leaders who ‘understand and respect history’
I was appalled at Councilwoman Barb Warwick’s recent op-ed about the war in Gaza. Her argument that “historical debates are beside the point” ironically highlights the ignorance that underlies her message. History is entirely the point. That is why history is one of the core academic subjects in every institution of learning. One cannot understand or appreciate geopolitical events outside of their context. In no case is that more essential than the conflict in the Middle East.

Absent historical context it could appear that the war in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is just Israel behaving like a bully. And indeed, that is the view of many who don’t have a more thorough understanding of history and its relevance. This oversimplification of Israel as bully is one of the root misconceptions with the calls for “cease-fire now,” especially when those calls do not demand the return of hostages, as Councilwoman Warwick failed to do.

Similarly, the German masses were unable to see past the simplistic yet inaccurate messages that we now clearly identify as propaganda. That led to actual genocide.

We know that those who do not understand and apply the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. Thus, Councilwoman Warwick’s statement is paving that road. The very evening I penned this letter my family would be the victim of a hate crime when our yard sign supporting Israel was vandalized. As a representative of part of the largest Jewish community in Pittsburgh, Councilwoman Warwick should be ashamed. What a betrayal of her constituents! And the insinuation that Jews calling for a permanent cease-fire are somehow more “moral” than the majority of Jews who support Israel’s right to defend itself is inaccurate and inappropriate.

This moment demands — and our community deserves — leaders who both understand and respect history as they form and share their opinions on complex world events.

Aviva Lubowsky
Squirrel Hill

Warwick gets it wrong
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Barbara Warwick’s appeal for a cease-fire in Gaza is yet another arrogant attempt by an elected official to safeguard Democratic political security at the expense of Israeli national security (“We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine,” March 22).

Don’t be fooled by Warwick’s Oct. 7 lip service. The bar for Israeli sympathy is so dismally low that merely acknowledging the barbarity of Hamas that day often passes as solidarity for many — it’s not. The councilwoman exposes her insincerity the moment she shamelessly pins the burden on Israel to put down its arms, rather than demanding that Hamas unequivocally surrender and free the hostages.

Warwick naively asks why it is “so difficult to unify around calls for bombs, bullets and rockets to stop?” It’s because most Jews understand that a cease-fire amounts to a strategic victory for Hamas that would only embolden repeat campaigns of murder, mutilation and rape.

The councilwoman then explained why those supporting a cease-fire do not need to be “history experts” to justify their reasoning. “Historical debates are beside the point,” she says, “when more than 1 million people are trapped in Rafah starving and at the risk of bombardment.”

Somehow I suspect Warwick would find historical context especially relevant in justifying the Allied bombardment of Germany. Somehow I suspect Warwick wouldn’t have wept for Dresden — and it’s for precisely the same reason why I don’t weep for Gaza.

She rounds off her petition by exploiting the Jewish minority that opposes Israel’s operation in Gaza, reassuring us that these Jewish renegades effectively calling for national suicide aren’t acting out of self-hatred, but rather from “moral conviction.” This is just condescending. It implies that useful idiots and local officials with no dog in this fight know what’s best for the Jewish people more than the Jewish people themselves.

It’s easy for people like Warwick to support dead Jews, but only when the Jews fight back do we become a problem. If Warwick truly wishes to see peace in the land she calls “Palestine,” she’d support Israel’s aim for total victory over Hamas. But for many Democratic officials, it might cost them their job.

Aidan Segal

Warwick’s op-ed ‘drips with hubris’
Councilwoman Barb Warwick’s call for a cease-fire in Gaza endeavors to be balanced and empathetic but drips with hubris. The central question she asks is, “Why is it so difficult to unify around calls for the bombs, bullets and rockets to stop?” What an obtuse question. The worldwide Jewish community has been screaming why it’s not just difficult, but impossible. We do care about innocent people in Gaza and, at the same time, we cannot compromise on defending ourselves and the Jewish state.

It is good to see the list of politically correct acknowledgments Warwick assembled, however, her ultimate recommendation of a cease-fire fails to acknowledge that Hamas has promised more attacks like Oct. 7. It fails to acknowledge that this proposal would allow terrorists time to regroup, resupply and rearm. Warwick satisfies her obligation to acknowledge antisemitism and feelings of “fear and anxiety” but in her next breath dictates that the Jewish people should accept murder, rape and torture passively. Perhaps the councilwoman should acknowledge that Hamas could simply return the hostages for a cease-fire — the deal which, she neglects to mention, has been on the table — instead of glossing over the hostages’ “increasingly bleak” outlook.

It is most insulting that Warwick chooses to pit the Jewish community against itself. When the Chronicle, the very platform through which she chose to lecture the Jewish community, polled its readers asking, “Should local city and county councils consider resolutions calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war?” of the 364 people who responded, 90% said no; 7% said yes; and 3% said they don’t know. Thank you, Councilwoman Warwick, for spotlighting the 7% and turning a deaf ear to the 90%. Thank you for portraying our community as divided when we are very much united.

P.S. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with Palestine (I’d be interested in learning where that is; perhaps Councilwoman Warwick can show me?) or Palestinians as a group.

Chaim Strassman

Israel has a moral duty to protect its people
Councilmember Warwick asserts, “While some have said this conflict is not the business of local government, the hundreds of Pittsburghers attending vigils, rallies and marches…prove otherwise” (“We must call for an end to all attacks on the people of Israel and Palestine,” March 22). However, in the White House’s description of the role of local government, there is no mention of involvement in peaceful demonstrations or international affairs in general: “Municipalities generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services (including public transportation), and public works (streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth).” Drafting a resolution about a war on the other side of the world is incongruous with the designated role of our City Council, which instead should be spending its limited time addressing the many day-to-day needs of our local community.

Furthermore, there was a cease-fire in Gaza on Oct. 6. That cease-fire was broken in the most horrific way imaginable by Hamas terrorists. The following words strike a familiar chord:

“Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts…These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation…Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks…The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts…We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

These words were spoken on Sept. 11, 2001, by President George W. Bush. Following 9/11, the United States initiated the Global War on Terrorism. From President Bush on October 11, 2001, “The attack took place on American soil, but it was an attack on the heart and soul of the civilized world. And the world has come together to fight a new and different war, the first, and we hope the only one, of the 21st century. A war against all those who seek to export terror, and a war against those governments that support or shelter them.”

These historic words remind us that terrorism anywhere in the world is a threat to freedom everywhere. They also remind us that sometimes war is necessary to maintain that freedom. Just as the United States was justified in fighting a war on terror following 9/11, so Israel is justified in fighting a war on terror following 10/7. Israel has every right, and in fact is morally obligated, to protect its people, destroy Hamas and bring its hostages home.

Ellen Scholnicoff

Researchers confirm Gazan casualty numbers
From an editor’s note accompanying Councilwoman Barb Warwick’s opinion piece, to an article reprinted from the Jewish News Syndicate (“Hamas fakes casualty figures: ‘The numbers are not real,’” online, March 20), the Chronicle certainly seems intent on raising doubts about
casualty numbers in Gaza. The analysis cited in the JNS article draws on a cherry-picked review of 15 days (Oct. 26 to Nov. 10). This superficial analysis stands in stark contrast to two peer-reviewed publications in the leading medical journal The Lancet in early January. These papers, by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health, concluded that there was “no evidence of inflated rates” and that there was evidence of “high excess mortality among Gazan population groups that are likely to be largely civilian, including humanitarian and health-care workers, indicating a substantial number of Palestinians killed during this period.” If the Chronicle wishes to call these conclusions into question, appropriate sources and analyses should be presented.

Harry Hochheiser

Schumer is right: Netanyahu is an ‘impediment to peace’
It was a bold move for the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress and a strong supporter of Israel to deliver the speech we heard from U. S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, in which he called for an election for prime minister to take place in Israel if and when the war against Hamas winds down (“Chuck Schumer calls for new elections in Israel, says Netanyahu has ‘lost his way,’” online, March 14).

Schumer began by expressing his contempt for the instigators of the war — the savages of Hamas — and he chose his words carefully throughout. He did not call for Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign nor for any immediate action to be taken and he emphasized that when elections are held, he will respect the verdict of the people of Israel whatever it may be.

Schumer accurately noted that Netanyahu is an impediment to peace and that Israel’s actions in Gaza, vis-a-vis civilians who are being killed and who are starving in desperate conditions, are now causing the Jewish state to be even more widely criticized throughout the world.

Also on the front burner should be concern over the very real possibility of terrorist acts to be perpetrated against the United States both here and/or abroad as it is funding the war, seen by many, albeit inaccurately, as Israeli military actions that are targeting civilians.

The argument used by those who challenge Schumer is that he is engaging in foreign interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. It should be noted that the United States is no ordinary country as far as Israel is concerned: Israel exists because of the aid and non-financial support provided by our country, its greatest friend since its birth in 1948. Certainly counsel offered by Americans who are friends of Israel should be considered.

What is taking place in Israel and Gaza is a calamity of historic proportions. The cost is enormous, and there is uncertainty about whether anyone in the region will be safer as a result.

The age-old dilemma of how Israel and its Arab neighbors can live in peace continues to be the unsolvable conundrum.

Oren Spiegler
Peters Township

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