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PEN Actions-Published Letters

Concord Monitor – May 6, 2024

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Why Israel?

Gary Seidner wonders why students protesting Israel’s destruction of Gaza aren’t protesting the war in Syria, claiming its “blatant antisemitism.” There is a very simple explanation, and it’s not antisemitism. Our government is sending bombs and weapons to the government of Israel, but not Syria. Our government is sending billions of our tax dollars to the Israeli government, not to Syria. Our government is using all its influence to defend Israel’s actions in the UN, it’s not defending Syria.

Like it or not, U.S. policy absolutely makes Americans complicit in Israel’s disproportionate use of force in Gaza and its violations of international law. We are complicit in the starvation, the destruction of hospitals and churches and mosques and schools and homes and infrastructure. We are complicit in the almost complete dislocation of 2 million people and the deaths of over 34,000 Gazans and counting. If you perceive calls for human rights and international law as a threat, you are defending the wrong side. I’m with the students.

PATRICIA SAENGER, Temple


Union Leader – May 6, 2024

Letter: How would Perlman like for it to be done to Jews?

To the Editor: In a recent letter to the editor, Alan Perlman savages pro-Palestinian protesters. To him, the anguish the protesters feel and their outrage is “mindless” and “arbitrary.” He is obviously unmoved by the deaths of entire families, of children buried alive in rubble, of the damage done by 2,000-pound dumb bombs, of imposed starvation.

Perlman incredibly dismisses 34,000 dead Gazans as “civilian casualties of war.” There. Done. Nothing here to see. The only thing that upsets Mr. Perlman is, incredulously, terminology.

I would like to challenge Mr. Perlman to put the shoe on the other foot. Would he feel any different if this same level of violence and destruction was being inflicted on Jews?

Peace for Jews, for non-Jews, for Palestinians, for Americans, and for the world will only occur when people like Mr. Perlman are able to look beyond their own narrowly-defined tribe to accept the universality of human suffering. To resist the temptation to dehumanize anyone who looks different or believes differently or sings different songs or wears different clothes. To truly embrace the substance of “Never again.” To understand that when any community is denied basic human rights, denied the ability to live in safety and raise a family, there will be no peace.

I applaud those who are protesting for their idealism. Empathy is the only path to making a better world.

PATRICIA SAENGER, Temple


Laconia Daily Sun – April 27, 2024

 On Earth Day Remember One of Our Biggest Polluters Is War
     Our earth is at risk.
    One of the biggest polluters is war.
The cloud that ascends after each bomb hits is full of dust and trash.  When buildings are blown up concrete, insulation, and other materials are pulverized into toxic dust.     According to the Scientific American a toxic mix of dust, ash and other material from 15 million tons of rubble now blankets Gaza. That toxic air does not stay over Gaza.
In just the first month, Israel dropped more than 25,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip, the equivalent of two nuclear bombs. Israel has dropped highly toxic white phosphorus bombs on Gaza and south Lebanon that can seep deep into the soil and water systems, remaining there for many years.
Almost all of the olive trees, lemon trees, pomegranate trees of Gaza are dead.  There are no longer any sewage treatment plants.  Farms and trees in Ukraine are no longer.   In Ukraine the vast leveling of urban and industrial infrastructure has left pollution of earth and air. All the buildings which are now rubble are spilling chemicals.
Just look at the clouds of smoke and debris that arise after just one bombing.
What do you suppose will be done with all the rubble? What if it is dumped into the sea?
If you work for a company that contributes to pollution in this way give it some thought.  If you vote for war, give the earth some thought.
Janet Simmon
Laconia

Laconia Daily Sun – April 6, 2024

Since the horror of October 7 the entire Gaza Strip has been devastated: hospitals, schools and food sources wiped out.   After massive killing of innocents we have heard the Israeli administration say, “it was an accident,” “we had evidence,” “just an unavoidable mistake.”  We have heard six months of “excuses” with little or no evidence.

Now Israel’s hand is exposed.  Since bombing a consulate in Damascus, making undocumented accusations against UNRWA employees, and bombing three World Central Kitchen vehicles the world can see that much of this destruction was planned and vastly beyond a “response” to the October attack.

The Israeli administration has been working up to taking over the Gaza Strip.  Remember Truman’s words, “bit by bit” and see how the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have been deprived of their land, their homes, their dignity, their cultural institutions.

The United States is complicit.  Our senators and representatives have continued to support money and weapons for Israel despite words of concern over their use in opposition to international law.  The people of NH can see that our entire delegation is out of step with common sense and humanity.

We must stop sending billions of dollars and tons of bombs and hundreds of planes which enable this plan to eliminate the Palestinians from their land.

Janet Simmon, Laconia


Seacoast Online – March 18, 2024

US must do more to broker peace between Israel and Palestinians

To the Editor:

This Saint Patrick’s Day was a solemn one for me. Being Irish on my Mother’s side, it is supposed to be a day of celebration. But I found myself thinking about how my Irish ancestors were driven to this country by famine. A famine that was actually rooted in the politics of occupation. Ireland was a food exporting country during the years of the potato blight, forced to send what they produced to England, often at gunpoint. About 1 million people starved to death.

Watching another famine devastate a population of mostly women and children who are starving with food just out of reach breaks my heart.

It is illegal under US law (the Foreign Assistance Act) for our government to send military aid to a country that is restricting transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance. Numerous senators have signed a letter reminding President Biden of this. Senators Shaheen and Hassan did not sign. I urge them to support this initiative, to end the blockade of Gaza, which had already lasted 16 years before Israel’s defense minister ordered a “complete siege” starting last October.

Only a permanent ceasefire and internationally supported diplomacy will create the conditions for security for Palestinians and Israelis, and make the world safer for us all. Fifty-six years of Israeli occupation of Palestine and billions of US tax dollars in military aid has shown how a cycle of violence can go on and on, with so much suffering for civilians on all sides of a conflict.

The Irish and English have made great progress towards a more peaceful and just relationship. In that case, the US helped end the bloodshed rather than sending weapons. I hope we can learn from our history.

Amy Antonucci, Barrington


Concord Monitor – March 4, 2024

Letter: Conscience of America

The stories of the horror and suffering coming out of Gaza are gut-wrenching. Ordinary people, civilians, wounded and dying, entire families killed, children orphaned, denied food and water, starving. The old and infirm herded into tents lacking beds, heat and toilets. Surgeons facing innumerable casualties without electricity or basic supplies, facing death themselves. Israel, in control of Gaza’s borders, refuses to let in medical aid or food for the entire population leading to plausible charges of genocide. The Associated Press reports that “The Israeli military campaign in Gaza…now sits among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history.” The Red Cross says, “No words adequately capture the depth of human suffering in Gaza.”

Yet, our government can’t send replacement munitions to Israel fast enough. Why? They’re slashing funding for aid workers in Gaza and blocking world-wide calls for a cease-fire. Why? Do they lust for more death and destruction? Is Palestinian suffering, Palestinian humanity, of no consequence to them? Or is this just an excuse to funnel more money to our military-industrial complex? Regardless of the reason, our elected officials are clearly demonstrating that they have absolutely no conscience. As citizens, we have to be the conscience of America. We have to speak out, loudly, for what is right and moral and do it now or we are just as guilty.

Patricia Saenger

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1-25-24)

Letter: Compromise is possible

The Jan. 17 Monitor carried two letters that spoke to each other. Scott Lounsbury offered the necessity of “both/and” thinking regarding our national dialogue verses the prevailing “either/or.” He writes, “the misshapen truths from “us vs them” are “driven by … one-sidedness, tribalism, and our need for easy answers.” The letter by Matt Leahy offers examples of one-sided tribalism in the Israel war on Hamas. Mr. Leahy (and others) declares that unless Israel gets unlimited support for its Jewish nation-state and condemnation of Hamas, peace will never come. Either support Israel and damn Hamas or forfeit peace. There is a “both/and” option.

Hamas proposed one in its 2017 update and revision of its 1988 charter. It rejects the Zionist state in Palestine and considers “the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 1967 (borders) with the return of refugees and the displaced to their homes.” Hamas is willing to turn a blind eye to the existence of Israel while having its own sovereign state in the West Bank. It’s a “both/and” solution, having two opposing thoughts at once, something most can manage. An exception is Netanyahu. For him and his party it’s all or nothing, certainly not co-existence and peace. Mr. Leahy quotes part of Article 13 in the Hamas charter, the rest of which explains Hamas’ rejection of international conferences, namely that the usual participants have shown no respect for Palestinian demands, restoring their rights or doing justice for the oppressed. I recommend reading Hamas’ charter and the 2017 update.

Gail Page, Concord


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1-25-24)

Letter: To President Biden and the NH Congressional delegation

I read this morning that Israeli PM Netanyahu rejected establishment of a Palestinian state. Is this news to you? You may have been led to believe that only Arab terrorists are trying to have all the land in Israel/Palestine for themselves exclusively. In fact, the rejection of any Palestinian claim to any of the land ‘from the river to the sea’ has been policy of Likud, Netanyahu’s party, and its predecessors (like the Irgun), since before Israel established itself. The Irgun used terrorism to take Palestinian homes and expel as many Arabs from Israel as possible. That activity continues with ongoing Israeli violence growing illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories after the 1967 war.

That land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River was never exclusively Jewish nor exclusively Arab Palestinian. Netanyahu’s government has exploited the obscene Hamas terrorism to further the Israeli settler goal of annexing more Palestinian territory. The focus on helping Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) destroy Hamas at the expense of the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian men, women and children is wrong. And the media has failed to bring attention to how this is allowing the increased settler attacks in the West Bank with IDF support. To achieve a peaceful future, the U.S. must stop supporting unrestrained Israeli killing and displacement of Palestinians. Support instead permanent ceasefire, release of all Israeli hostages and of all Palestinians held without charges in Israeli administrative detention by the IDF.

Jennifer Smith, Pembroke


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1-24-24)

Letter: Oppose SB 439, the anti-BDS bill

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the NH Senate’s Executive and Departments Committee will hold a hearing on SB 439 that would prohibit NH state investments from going to businesses participating in a boycott of Israel. All 14 Republican state senators and four Democratic state senators support this bill. I oppose SB 439 and support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) as do organizations in NH such as the American Friends Service Committee, NH Veterans for Peace, and the NH Palestine Education Network. BDS targets Israeli institutions complicit in their oppressive policies towards Palestinians. BDS leaders have stated they would stop the campaign if Israel began to comply with international law and promised to end the occupation and stop further colonization of Palestinian land. (The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Most people in NH probably do not know that the BDS campaign is centered on nonviolence as it reflects other similar movements in history such as the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, led by such people as Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I ask the 18 legislators to consider that by endorsing this bill, they may inadvertently be supporting a government that practices apartheid, allows illegal settlements that violate international law, and maintains a brutal military occupation where basic freedoms are denied Palestinians, and military and “settler” violence directed at Palestinians is tolerated by Israel’s government that may well be found guilty of genocide by the International Court of Justice.

William Eugene Thomas, Auburn


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1-9-24)
A different view
For all Israel’s efforts at peace, why do Palestinians keep attacking them? A different view: In 1947 Britain was ending its control of Palestine. According to the UN Charter, Palestinians should have been allowed to form their own state. Instead, powerful U.N. members acceded to the Zionist movement and designated half of Palestine for Jewish control (a minority population, many recently immigrated from Europe). This decision ripped apart the bonds of Palestinian society as Jewish identity was privileged over Palestinian identity.
The new state, Israel, quickly expelled 700,000 Palestinians to establish a Jewish majority. (Reference Plan Dalet, Benny Morris, and Deir Yassin). This is the foundational dispossession that fuels the Palestine/Israel conflict. Many of the expelled Palestinians were herded into Gaza and never allowed to return. Within Israel, discriminatory laws relegate Palestinian-Israelis to secondclass status. See Israel’s Adalah Project and the 2018 Nation-State law.
Israel’s ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank belie claims of desiring peace. They dispossess ever more Palestinians and are illegal under international law. Israel even announces its intent to erase Palestine (which receives little coverage). PM Netanyahu promised his administration wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state. His party’s founding platform states “…between the Sea and the Jordan [River] there will only be Israeli sovereignty.” Sound familiar? As Israel slaughters over 21,000 Palestinians, buries their children in rubble, destroys Gaza’s infrastructure while obliterating churches, mosques and schools, just who is erasing whom? I condemn Hamas’ atrocities but Israel has much to answer for.
TRICIA SAENGER.    Temple

Laconia Daily Sun – January 4, 2024
Letter: Media shapes view of enemies

To the editor:

I am a retired professor of history of psychology. Among the courses I taught was Psychology and Race. I assigned a workbook, short films, and articles, e.g., find an enemy image online, as preparation for a weekly essay quiz. Why was Hitler was the most frequent enemy image chosen by my students? Perhaps due to the Holocaust Industry (Finkelstein, 2000). Few mentioned North Sudan (vs South Sudan), or China (vs. Uyghur Muslims)? Or Saudi Arabia (vs. Houthis)? Israel and the U.S. never came up as enemy images. Yet much of the world views us as such, witness the recent vote for a ceasefire to Israel’s 3-month bombing of Gaza: 180 countries against Israel and U.S.

The point is to read multiple perspectives. Enemy image according to whom, and what for? Our media shape our views. In the case of Palestine, for instance, if we focus on Oct. 7 without knowing the history of 75-year occupation, as the mainstream media does, we are less likely to be sympathetic to the goals of Hamas, which is cessation of apartheid and bombing and the beginning of sovereignty and freedom. If we cite the Hamas Charter of 1985 and ignore the revised charter of 2017, we won’t know that Hamas actually agreed to the 1967 borders and Israel never supported negotiations. By the way, the Likud position (and political reality) seems to support apartheid from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

I have yet to find this balance in the mainstream media.

William Woodward, Ipswich


The Salem News – January 3, 2024
Letter: Writer overlooks important facts in Gaza conflict

 To the editor:

Brian Watson wrote of Israel granting long overdue autonomy to Palestine (Salem News, Oct. 26). I would add that this hope is echoed by over 180 nations who voted at the U.N. for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement. Against that vote stood Israel, the U.S., and a few client states. Yet Sylvia Belkin responded that “Columnist should rethink position on real causes of tragedy of Palestine” (Salem News, Dec. 28). She claims Hamas attacked to stop the so-called peace accord with Saudi Arabia. But she does not acknowledge that this agreement would have cost Palestine its allies in the Arab world. She asserts that after Israel pulled out of Gaza 18 years ago, Hamas could have created a Singapore!

Is she unaware that access into and out of Gaza is strictly controlled by Israel, blocking materials for reconstruction, and that Israel has attacked Gaza every few years since moving its citizens out? See the Goldstone Report on the brutal Operation Cast Lead, or the subsequent Operation Protective Edge responding to a nonviolent protest with live bullets aimed to paralyze. Democracy indeed!

How I wish that critics of Hamas would read history of occupation. Hamas in its revised 2017 charter acknowledged the 1967 boundaries. It is Likud’s charter that claims the land from Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond the charter is the reality of the land that Israel controls with an iron fist, depriving West Bank and Gaza of freedom to move and thrive, now destroying Gazans’ homes, schools, hospitals, water systems, and families.

William Woodward, Ipswich


Laconia Daily Sun – November 17, 2023

Janet Simmon: Palestinians are fighting for the right to exist, live freely

To The Daily Sun,

Seven million Palestinians live in Israel proper, the occupied West Bank and Gaza. They want the same rights you and I want. Palestinians desire to live in their homeland as free and equal citizens, neither dominated by others nor dominating them.

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace who rallied in Boston last Sunday chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” stated clearly that their goal was that Palestinians live with basic human rights. Stating this is not antisemitic. They were not in any way calling for death, destruction or the end of the state of Israel.

In contrast, consider the founding charter of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, which states, “Between the sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.”

Janet Simmon, Laconia


 

Letter: The world needs a cease fire

 

Published: 11-08-2023 – 06:00:11

The world needs a cease fire

The violence the world is witnessing in Gaza is the Israeli response to the October 7 attack. It’s a war against Hamas but also against the people of Gaza. Although I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian, like observers around the world I want the violence to stop. While understanding Israel’s desire for revenge and to be rid of Hamas, what is happening to the people of Gaza is literally overkill and must cease. It’s the result of decades of pent-up rage and fear, but it is too much, too cruel. That the U.S. government is encouraging and enabling it is shameful.

Being sympathetic to the people of Gaza as they are slaughtered by the thousands is not being anti-Semitic. It’s not being unsympathetic to the pain and anguish of Israelis after the attack by Hamas. It’s not being sympathetic to the violence perpetrated by Hamas. Being critical of policies carried out by the far right Israeli government against all Palestinians is not hating the nation-state of Israel nor its people.

As a politically progressive pacifist, I believe that most of us who sympathize with the Palestinian people in Gaza and criticize the Israeli government’s treatment of them are pro-Semitic and abhor the hatred of Jews and Muslims that poisons many hearts. We want both Israelis and Palestinians to be secure, treated equally and to live in peace. I was sickened by the violent attacks and kidnappings carried out by Hamas and am equally opposed to Israel’s genocidal ground and air war in Gaza. The world needs a cease fire now.

Mary Lee Sargent, Bow

"Thanks, Robert Azzi"

Thanks, Robert Azzi for your usual hard truthtelling in your "My Turn" ( Monitor, May 23) concerning the real situation that led to the slaughter in Gaza these last weeks. All the deaths in Palestine/Israel are to be mourned but as has always been the case for decades, the death toll is far greater among the Arab peoples for the simple fact that, thanks to the US, Israel has high tech weaponry and Hamas has unsophisticated rockets. Who started it?

Look back at the decades of dispossession, humiliation and outright murder of the Palestinians by the Israelis and you will know. “We must expel Arabs and take their places,” said David Ben-Gurion in 1937. Yitzhak Shamir, in 1988 said, “The Palestinians would be crushed like grasshoppers.” Golda Meir, in 1969 said, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people. They didn’t exist.” And this, “How can we return the occupied territories?

There is nobody to return them to.” Israel’s “right to exist” and “right to defend itself” are the favorite answers of US politicians, Biden included. They are empty, insulting phrases to a people who do indeed exist in spite of Israel’s efforts to erase them.

GAIL PAGE
Concord

On July 23, 2020, N.H. Governor Sununu signed into law HB 1135.  This was an omnibus measure that contained a number of bills including SB 727.  This Senate bill mandates that the Holocaust and “other genocides” be taught as a graduation requirement.

HB 1135 also establishes a 16-member commission to study “best practices for teaching students how intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism . . . has evolved in the past, and can evolve into mass violence and genocide, such as the Holocaust.”

This commission includes a person appointed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), New England region.  However, several members of the N.H. Palestine Education Network object to this ADL representative. Based on multiple sources we have read, we discovered the ADL apparently has a history of being anti-Muslim, anti-Black Americans, and anti-Palestinians.   These media sources include In These Times, The Boston Review, Politico, ALTERNET and “CAIR” (The Council on American-Islamic Relations).

Here are several examples: ALTERNET says: “Another tendency of the ADL is to smear Black Lives Matter activists who couple their struggle with those of the Palestinians.”  ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt called the “Movement for Black Lives” as “anti-Semitic.”  ALTERNET also commented that the ADL “is notorious for its anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian streak. For decades, the ADL has faced reports of conspiring with police to spy on and intimidate Arab American political groups.”

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, this month, August, 2020, condemned the ADL’s “history and ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements,” especially those led by “immigrants, Muslims, Arabs, and other marginalized groups, while aligning itself with police, right-wing leaders, and perpetrators of state violence.”  According to CAIR, the “ADL has also publicly attacked various American Muslim politicians and organizations for speaking out in support of Palestinian human rights, conflating legitimate condemnation of the Israeli occupation with anti-Semitism.”

From Politico, the Washington branch of Black Lives Matter (BLM) commented that the ADL was “ultra-pro-cop” and quoted ADL Director Greenblatt saying that the “ADL has not endorsed the BLM movement because a small minority of its leaders supported anti-Israel – and at times anti-Semitic positions.”

In These Times (July 21, 2019) has a piece “Beware the Anti-Defamation League’s Efforts to Partner with Progressive Organizations.”  “Despite its public portrayal of itself, the ADL isn’t a civil rights group in any meaningful sense, but rather, a veiled pro-Israel lobbying organization that uses superficial language of inclusiveness and anti-racism to defend Israel from criticism from the left.”

Finally, a lengthy article by Emmaia Gelman can be found in the May 23, 2019 Boston Review, entitled “The Anti-Defamation League is Not What It Seems.”

NH PEN members realize that it is probably too late to remove the ADL representative from the education commission, but we believe that the public and the other members of the commission should be made aware of the ADL’s apparent biases against Muslims, Black Lives Matter advocates, and Palestinians.   We also would encourage those who are appointing members of this commission to include a Native American and a Black American as representatives of populations that suffered horrific genocides during America’s history.

If this commission knew, if most Americans, especially white folks, became aware of what the World Future Fund calls the “African Holocaust,” where possibly some 60 million human beings died due to “White Christian Imperialism,” then perhaps the study of this horrific genocide might be mandated in public schools as has the study of the European Holocaust per HB 1135.

Another horrendous genocide that might be required before high school graduation would focus on the “conquest” of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Professor David Stannard’s extensive research on Native Americans led him to write that what they endured in history amounted to “the worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed.”

Is it not time to require our young people to study both of these two gigantic genocides of African-Americans and Native-Americans so as to inform them of the true nature of this country’s history?

Will Thomas, member
NH Palestine Education Network

Why the recent round of violence between Palestinians and Israelis?

Initially, it was the forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.  The Israeli Supreme Court has agreed to render a verdict on the claims of Jewish “settlers” versus the Palestinian families who have lived there for decades.   Israeli leaders admit that they seek to change the demographics of East Jerusalem.  What Israel is doing is a violation of International Law whereby Israel is obligated to protect the lives and property of an occupied population.

During the holy month of Ramadan, many Palestinians go to Al Aqsa mosque to pray.  Before going to the mosque, many would gather at the Damascus Gate for conversation and to greet relatives and friends.  However, for several nights, the Israeli police and Occupation Forces attacked the Palestinians. 

Those Palestinians who did manage to go to the mosque and pray, were suddenly and viciously attacked by the Israeli police and military with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. 

Hamas issued a warning to Israel to stop the violent attacks on Palestinians or they would retaliate.  They did and now the conflict has escalated wherein innocent Palestinians and Israelis have died. 

It is estimated that about 200 homes housing more than 3,000 Palestinians in areas near the Old City are under threat of eviction, while 2,000 Palestinian homes across the city are under threat of demolition.”  A Jewish settler said “This land belonged to the Jewish people. I want Jerusalem to be Jewish.” 

Will Thomas, PEN Member
New Hampshire Peace Action