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Israeli response to rocket attacks 'disproportionate'

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Yet another letter from Dr Alan Shroot (Letters, November 26) justifying the obscenely disproportionate response of the Israelis to Palestinian reprisal rocket attacks. This follows the equally predictable one-sided contributions of Vic Adams and Bill Arnold (Letters, November 24).

None of these three regular defenders of the Zionist state ever once says one thing about the victims other than that it is their fault. Shroot, a doctor of medicine who regularly and strenuously warns against the dangers of tobacco smoke, has nothing to say about the lethality of Israeli weapon attacks on innocent Palestinian civilians. The latest fighting has resulted in the death of 162 Palestinians and six Israelis. That's 27 to 1.

Presumably, our letter-writing trio of apologists for Israel and its policies of revenge and apartheid (see Jimmy Carter's views if you think this is a radical description) would say, well, at least that is an improvement on 2008 when the Israeli Operation Cast Lead killed 1400 Palestinians for a loss of 13 Jewish lives.

The apocalyptic religious fanaticism of the Jewish theocracy is every bit as blood-curdling and racist as anything dreamed up by the puny organisation called Hamas - the difference is that it is Israel that is delivering nearly all the bloodshed.

Chris Williams, Griffith

I agree with Amin Saikal (''Ceasefire must bring solution'', November 23, p17) that a Palestinian state can become a reality only with the help and approval of the West. It must be a huge disappointment, however, that despite sitting on the world's richest oil reserves, the Arab leaders have been impotent at advancing the cause of their long-suffering kith and kin. Indeed, without a single exception, these leaders have been preoccupied with consolidating their own position at home, and by all the means at their disposal, rather than devote themselves to such a worthy and humanitarian cause.

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

In his article ''Ceasefire must bring solution'', Amin Saikal suggests that, with the ceasefire that has been brokered between Hamas and Israel, the US and its Western allies ''now have a unique opportunity to prompt Israel to negotiate a settlement based on the two-state solution''.

However, it is extremely doubtful whether the two-state solution is a feasible outcome for the simple reason that the Palestinians do not now have enough territory for a viable state. Over the last decade, the settler population has increased by an average of 5 per cent every year, and there are now more than half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The existing settlements and illegal outposts (which are nevertheless supported by the government), together with the associated infrastructure (water, electricity, etc) and security corridors, account for more than 40 per cent of the West Bank. The result is that a large portion of the West Bank has, in effect, been annexed to Israel.

The only viable model for a separate Palestinian state requires the withdrawal of most of the settlers. While Israel did withdraw 8000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it is unlikely that any future Israeli government, of whatever complexion, would agree to withdraw all or most of the settlers from the West Bank. And so it seems inevitable that for the time being, the rest of the world will be forced to look on while Israel continues to pursue its unacknowledged ambition of creating a ''Greater Israel'' stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.

However, further expansion into the West Bank will only be possible with more and more repression of the Palestinians. The time must come when a hitherto all-too-compliant America will be forced to intervene decisively, and then the system created by Israel will start to fall apart. In that regard, Jewish immigration to Israel has dropped to a trickle, while the birthrate of the Palestinians is three times as high as that of Israeli Jews. In the not too distant future, Palestinians will be a demographic majority west of the Jordan River.

To avoid becoming an international pariah for reasons not all that dissimilar to those that applied in relation to apartheid South Africa, Israel will be forced to choose between remaining Jewish, which will involve retreating to its 1967 borders, or democratic, which will involve enfranchising the Palestinians. It will be unable to be both.

Justin McCarthy, Chapman

Deaths at sea can be prevented by more humane means

Asylum seekers should not be treated as numbers, or a problem to be solved, or as ''illegals'' whose very existence is somehow a crime. They should be treated like people, because that's what they are. People fleeing horrors and persecution we can only imagine, hoping to find a safe place to rebuild their lives. Instead, we throw them into a tent behind the wire in Nauru, a Christmas Island detention centre or, now, into an isolated state of poverty in Australia, without the ability to work and better their lives.

Australia's immigration challenges are minuscule when compared with the United States, Europe or most of the rest of the world, and the danger of coming here by boat exists only because those boats are being run by unscrupulous profiteers. Isn't it about time we stopped trying to deter people and started creating enough government-supervised pathways to Australia that nobody feels the need to hire a people smuggler? There are ways to stop the deaths at sea which don't involve imprisoning vulnerable people, especially children, and leaving more to eke out a hopeless life without legal status in non-signatories to the refugee convention like Indonesia, who simply do not have the resources and opportunities we do to help refugees.

Joshua Smith, Gordon

''Man's inhumanity to man/Makes countless /thousands mourn'' - from A Dirge by Robert Burns (1784).

From Dr Thom's report for Amnesty International (''Amnesty plea for humane deal on Nauru refugees'', November 21, p1), apart from deliberate physical and mental torture, living conditions for refugees in Nauru resemble those of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay in being ''completely unacceptable''. They have led to hunger strikes, self-harm and attempted suicide, related to the indefinite prospect of detention and no opportunity of employment when released into the community. Australia is a nation of immigrants eventually making valuable contributions in building a multicultural society.

The present government's policy towards refugees is no less inhumane than the opposition's proposal to ''turn back the boats''. Apart from evading our responsibilities to refugees under the United Nations charter, Australia is depriving itself of the opportunity to host immigrants who have overcome severe adversity, many of whom possess valuable talents to offer, given the opportunity. To avoid becoming an international pariah, Australia should make an immediate investment to ''process'' refugees rapidly on-shore and allow those who qualify for refugee status to settle in locations where their skills are most needed.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Trains before planes

I am bemused by the debate over the Tralee housing development. Why must Canberra Airport grow? And if it is to grow, why is this a good thing that must be allowed, even facilitated? Air travel is grossly inefficient and polluting, and fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and more scarce. Airfreight is even more socially unacceptable, to the point where it should probably be illegal other than for lightweight mail. Shipping (literally) items to Europe takes as long now as in the 19th century - surely it could be quicker?

A curfew on an airport near a city is reasonable to allow residents some peace at night, when other ambient noise is low. That Canberra Airport has no curfew is troubling. Rail transport, for freight and passengers, is the transport medium of the future and will make all but long distance, mainly international, air travel irrelevant. A fast train between Canberra and Sydney, especially if it extends to Melbourne and Brisbane, won't make Canberra Airport Sydney's second international airport. Rather rail will replace so many domestic flights that Sydney Airport will have enough landing slots for years to come.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Stirling Lodge option

Contrary to Peter McGhie's letter (November 23), the proposed installation of a small diplomatic estate in vast Stirling Park, close to existing development, does fit with the National Capital Plan and its legislation. Certainly not, however, a proposal to locate the new Lodge on Attunga Point. That'd be seen as aping Kirribilli House, elitist, and un-Australian.

Lake Burley Griffin is not Sydney Harbour. An elevated north-facing site, close to Parliament House, in the natural bushland setting of Stirling Ridge, with appropriate fire protection, would be an ideal place for the new Lodge. Wherever that building and new embassies are sited, a (relatively small) part of the local environment has to be modified.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Just the facts, please

In his article ''IDs now matter instead of ideas'' (Forum, November 24, p1), Jack Waterford quotes Lindsay Tanner: ''Politicians and media collaborate in this process of deception on a daily basis.''

If we are getting deceived daily, and editors know the truth, would you please start telling us the truth? It used to be the role of the media to give the whole story, warts and all. What use is a media that is no more than a publishing arm for spin doctors? If newspapers are to survive, they need to fulfil a purpose. Publishing media releases will not do it. Nor will railing against a broken system. If the journalists do not have time to be thorough, there is plenty of expertise in the Canberra population … Why not encourage more input from them?

Jenny Hobson, Spence

Voice for the elderly

Canberra's Voices in the Forest at the Arboretum is a wonderful concept realised in a splendid setting and will become a major fixture in the ACT's rich cultural calendar. The thousands of people attending on Saturday were treated to a superb offering of world class music and song and I'm sure everyone went away as impressed and delighted as we did.

But one thing deeply distressed me. It was the sight of elderly people, many on walking sticks, struggling in great heat over rough, hilly terrain to make their way on foot from distant parking areas to the concert venue or waiting in long queues with no shade for an inadequate shuttle bus service. My heart went out to these venerable warriors of the arts along with my wishes for their continued good health. Surely, the organisers, who are to be congratulated in all other respects for an extraordinary event, can do better than this in demonstrating a duty of care. Perhaps there is a role for ACTION Buses in helping to overcome this glaring oversight in planning.

Dr Gary Lewis, Wamboin, NSW

Timor's time to shine

May I dare suggest that Harold Mitchell's initiative (''Philanthropist gives $2.5m to ANU policy think tank'', November 23, p9), commendable though it is, is relatively insignificant compared to the content of the inaugural Harold Mitchell development policy lecture delivered by the Timor-Leste Minister of Finance Emilia Pires. The report acknowledges the lecture in the final paragraph.

I find the report parochial. Surely, your readers would, or should, be interested in what is happening in Timor-Leste, one of our closest neighbours that fought for many years against Indonesian occupation; lost a third of its population in the process; and finally became independent in 2002. It is one of the poorest countries in Asia; people live on a dollar a day, if that. Its people need so much.

Australia has strong government and people ties with Timor-Leste, partly stemming from our involvement in liberating the country in World War II. Timor-Leste is making great strides in tackling its many problems with the assistance of many governments, organisations and people, including community organisations in Australia. Why not report these developments regularly? You might be surprised by the response.

Geoff Clark, Narrabundah 

Giving not so super

I am all for philanthropy by the business world, including banks. However, I believe it should come from the dividends paid to shareholders, rather than the net profits before dividends. The shareholders are often superannuation funds whose members are the mum and dad investors and large donations are going to affect the returns of these funds. Most of these funds have returned a negative return over the past four or five years. I admire Dick Smith as a person but I am not with him on this. (''Philanthropy the greatest gift'', Editorial, Forum, November 24, p6). In any event, shareholders should have some say in what causes they support. For private companies, go for it Dick!

Bryan Warren, Macquarie

In describing ''Philanthropy the greatest gift'', Dick Smith attempts to prick consciences, particularly of ''senior bank executives, calling them ruthless and greedy'' (''Smith takes new tack in outing stingy bankers'', November 23, p6). A primary, basic demand, and higher duty of employers, should be to provide on-shore, safe, secure, image-enhancing, reasonably recompensed employment and payment of all taxes.

In the article ''Rhinehart adds author to rich list of assets'' (November 24, p8), Ian Plimer, says his idol ''gets pilloried by those that live off her wealth'', describing someone who, with Andrew Forrest, mounted an aggressive campaign against a super-profits tax which would contribute to the common good!

Smith's admonition will not induce Australian capitalists to cease global trawling, hunting the most brutal dictatorial regime receptive to bribing/coercion, offering (extremely) low-priced labour and raw material sources, inaccessible to environmental scrutiny, and tax-free, windfall, profits, which contribute to stock market churn without creating one job or producing one widget. Endowments and philanthropy contribute to warm fuzzy feelings, AOs, public adulation, and fawning obituaries. It would be more admirable if ''rich list members'' joined with the millions of Australians, who can't afford QCs and tax-avoidance devices, and contribute to social capital simply by paying tax.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

TO THE POINT

AN INQUISITION PERHAPS?

Despite the overwhelming evidence, Cardinal George Pell maintains faith in ecclesiastic, rather than secular processes for delivering justice for abuse victims. Therefore, perhaps he would agree to subject himself and his fellow clergy to a re-established Inquisition, with all of its divinely sanctioned values, methods and technologies?

Richard Manderson, Narrabundah

ECLECTIC COVERAGE

After reading Barnaby Joyce's unusually introspective column (''Personal politics fails the public'', November 22, p19), I went on to read the most thoughtful piece I have read so far on the origins of the current flare-up between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people (''What came first, occupation chicken or defence egg?'', November 22, p19) by Seumas Milne. This eclectic coverage makes The Canberra Times well worth reading. National dailies eat your heart out!

John Rodriguez, Florey

DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

So if you are a Liberal, you can break the law with impunity (''No action on ACT poll complaints'', November 22, p10). Failure to include an authorisation on electoral signs is designed to give the impression that the information on the sign is impartial, not party political, and to give it veracity. It is hardly a trivial matter. This surely sets a dangerous precedent.

Trish Saunders, Chapman

PERSONAL BESTS

The Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra is to be congratulated on holding a sports conference titled World Class to World Best in an attempt to shape the direction of high-performance sports. Let's hope the emphasis is more on success of the individual in terms of personal times and not on winning medals.

Dave White, Deakin

SOUND EFFECTS

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen tries to sound firm and purposeful but succeeds in sounding mean and nasty.

Beryl Richards, Curtin

ANTI-REFUGEE PROPAGANDA

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury's referral to maritime refugees as ''those people who have decided to hop on a boat and come to Australia'' is a new low in anti-refugee propaganda.

B. Ellis, Queanbeyan, NSW

MAKE THE SWITCH

Regarding all the letters complaining about petrol prices and their volatility, try the alternative at the Electric Vehicle Festival on December 1 in Civic. Electric 100 per cent GreenPower is cheaper and better.

Peter Campbell, Cook

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610. 
Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published). 
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