Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Readers respond

(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

Our leaders should be demanding the return of the hostages
On Oct. 7, the terrorist organization Hamas launched a savage, unprecedented and unprovoked invasion against the Jewish state, committing unspeakable acts of violence. This is not a war Israel wanted or started. No one in the Jewish community wants war. War is tragic. The death of civilian lives is tragic. We value all life and none of us wants people to die unnecessarily. We all want a peaceful coexistence. But the process of now ending this war must follow a path that allows Israel to maintain its security and the civilians of Gaza to rid themselves of Hamas, who not only has inflicted horrendous atrocities against Israel but against its own people as well.

G-d willing, we will soon see a pause if not cessation of fighting with an agreement that eliminates Hamas’ ability to wield its vitriol through barbaric violence, frees the remaining Israeli, American and other international hostages held inside of Gaza, and brings needed humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza, not least because Hamas is no longer hijacking aid trucks and stealing food.

Like any sovereign nation, Israel has the fundamental and inalienable right to defend itself, particularly in light of Hamas’ threats and promises to repeat Oct. 7. It is deeply disheartening that Councilmember Barbara Warwick fails to recognize this in her recent op-ed, opting instead to openly ignore the complex history of the region. That she can proffer solutions to this current conflict while explicitly stating that “historical debates are beside the point” demonstrates a lack of understanding of Israel’s security needs.

Rather than calling for an unconditional cease-fire that would only embolden and empower Hamas, our leaders should be demanding the obvious — the immediate return of the hostages and the surrender of Hamas. Why is it so difficult to unify around this call? The objectives of a cease-fire would then be met and Israel would maintain its security. We should all be asking why, as a representative of one of the largest Jewish communities in Pittsburgh, has Councilmember Warwick not called for this instead?

Lauren Baldel

Warwick’s misleading call for ‘peace’
While calling for a “lasting ceasefire in Gaza” Councilmember Barbara Warwick asked “why is it so difficult to unify around calls for the bombs, bullets and rockets to stop? To halt the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes?”

It is because opinion articles like hers ignore the reality that Israel is on a mission of self-defense (not “bombardment, displacement and siege,” as she opines), surgically hunting down Hamas and uprooting them. Blaming Israel for the current humanitarian crises, as she does, emboldens Hamas and delays their inevitable destruction or surrender.

She opines that the way to bring the hostages home is an “immediate, bilateral and lasting cease-fire,” yet ignores the fact that the abduction of the hostages ended a longstanding cease-fire. She also ignores that a long-lasting bilateral cease-fire by definition cannot exist with a terrorist group that promises to destroy you.

I encourage Councilwoman Warwick to engage with the Jewish community more, and to understand why articles like hers, while they may be well-meaning, are the very answer to her own question, “Why is it so difficult to unify around calls for the bombs, bullets and rockets to stop?”

Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld

Praise for Warwick
I was absolutely stunned to hear that Pittsburgh City Council member Barbara Warwick received a lot of vitriolic blowback and hate mail for her March 22 guest column, “We must call for an end to all attacks on Israel and Palestine.”

How much more fair could she have been? She called for both sides not to be attacked and she articulated the need for empathy and respect for all people.

Councilmember Warwick had the courage to put herself out there on a very charged issue. She emphasized the need for us to keep ourselves out of silos by talking with each other civilly about our fears and observations. Her words are the words of an outstanding mediator and representative of her constituents.

I look forward to seeing more of Barbara Warwick’s columns in your newspaper and will applaud you for your fairness in allowing all voices to be heard.

Elizabeth Steiner Milligan

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 Oct. 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

Fear in the air
I had the honor of being invited to the annual Jewish Community Center Big Night on March 9 in Squirrel Hill (“Oh, what a night,” March 15). I have been to similar events for Catholic schools, and I expected the same type of environment. For the most part everything was, in fact, the same, with silent auctions, food stations, niche alcohol drinks in a large banquet setting. I was very comfortable and knew more people there than I expected to. The JCC gala was larger and nicer than the others I attended in many ways. But there was an aura, a vibe that was different — not distinguishable, or instantaneously identifiable, but different.

The Pittsburgh police officers outside the entrance who were assisting with the traffic and parking were very polite as I entered alone, as were the two officers in the admission area immediately inside. Walking through the silent auction corridor looking for my friends and my mentor who invited me, I noticed two more officers there as well. Upon meeting my friends and getting acquainted we then went to the gym that was transitioned into a combined social center, seating area and dance floor, and I saw two more police officers stationed there.

When I was alone, I went over to those officers. I wanted to know if more officers were scheduled than usual so asked them that specifically. Their nonverbal response was one of immediate professionalism, seriousness with alert and direct facial expressions. The senior officer explained that there were additional officers assigned to this event explicitly because of the elevated risks due to the current rise in antisemitic attacks and he added that there “are even more officers assigned in similar events in New York.”

The “mood” for me changed drastically and it struck me that in all those years attending similar events for Catholic grade schools, I could not recall one police officer, ever.

Upon leaving the JCC gala and walking toward the door I felt a real concern, a real fear, strong and direct. Do I need to be alarmed, on alert, prepared for something happening to me? Walking past the officers, down the stairs and into the dark, no one would know that I am not Jewish, that I am different, and I could be judged in a way completely foreign to me. Could something actually happen to me? I could be classified or targeted like my friends have been and sadly still are. I felt a sliver, a fraction of fear or alertness that so many live with every second of their lives. It made me incredibly sad and feel very small, powerless and upset emotionally in a way that I never have been before in my life.
I want to do something, but what more can I do … ?

James D. Lucot Jr.

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