Israeli troops expand Gaza ground mission | July 19
Israel's deadly system of apartheid
I had just finished reading Max Blumenthal's latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, when the news appeared that a 16-year-old Palestinian with relatives in Tampa had been brutally killed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Later I learned about the inhumane beating and unjust arrest of a 15-year-old American boy of Palestinian origin by Israeli police. I was horrified to find out that it was a student from my U.S. government class on vacation to reconnect with family.
In Blumenthal's book, he documents an organized assault on civil liberties by Israel's current political leaders and the emergence of a state-funded religious nationalism in which Orthodox rabbis publish books on how and when to kill Gentiles. Israeli parliamentarians call for the expulsion of Palestinians or their genocide, while mob violence targets Palestinians and African asylum-seekers because government officials consider them "demographic threats" to Israel. Young boys, men and sometimes even women are yanked from their homes in nightly raids by the Israel Defense Forces and kept in prison without charges for months and years. Nonviolent, peaceful protesters in the West Bank are attacked daily with rubber bullets, tear gas and sometimes live bullets.
Countless airstrikes by Israeli defense forces are currently killing hundreds and maiming thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, just as Operation Cast Lead in 2008 killed 1,400 Palestinians and left Gaza in ruins. This is the face of Israeli occupation. It is racist, oppressive and a system of apartheid with its "Jewish-only" roads and tall separation walls.
Pilar Saad, Tampa
Israeli troops expand Gaza ground mission July 19
Palestinians to blame
Palestinian leaders are sacrificing the lives of their own people in their zeal to kill Jews and destroy Israel. They launch rockets (over 1,000 in one recent week alone) from thickly populated areas, then hide among women, children and the disabled. Before Israel responds, it repeatedly warns Gaza residents to get out of the way. But Hamas reserves its shelters and tunnels to hide its terrorist leaders and smuggle in weapons.
Israel developed the Iron Dome and a network of shelters to defend against repeated attacks by its neighbors, with the result that there is little footage of sobbing Israeli women and children. Instead people read daily about Gaza deaths without understanding the reasons why these people die while Israelis survive.
How to end the carnage? No doubt many would like Israel to commit suicide by laying down arms to placate angry terrorists. The alternative is for Palestinians to stop attacking the Jews, and use the substantial monetary aid they receive to build a decent life for themselves.
Liz Drayer, Clearwater
Drinking and popular culture
Stop glamorizing alcohol
"I like us better when we're wasted,/It makes it easier to fake it/The only time we really talk,/Is when our clothes are coming off/I like us better when we're wasted …"
These are the opening lyrics to a current hit on the radio titled Wasted, sung by Tiesto. I am a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University pursuing a public health degree and applying to medical school. Over the past three years of college I have witnessed many of my peers throwing up from hangovers and telling stories of how they do not remember the night before after getting "wasted." I've seen them anxious to get a morning-after pill, worried they may have been taken advantage of.
I am sickened by the catchy tune accompanied by degrading lyrics in this song. It gives the wrong idea about alcohol and seems to glamorize drinking to excess. It also promotes the idea that it is okay to use alcohol to escape from reality.
Why can't singers and songwriters use their influence to promote healthy lifestyles? This could help the current alcohol abuse problem among all people — including those who are underage.
Taylor Wiseman, Tampa
Florida judge okays gay marriage | July 18
I was thrilled to read in the Times that Judge Luis Garcia ruled Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. I was dismayed that your reporters chose to quote only one Christian source, Anthony Verdugo of the Christian Family Coalition. Verdugo is a loud voice for a conservative Christianity that is unwelcoming and exclusive.
If your reporters quote a politician, they ask for a response from the other side. I suggest that you take the same approach with Christians. For example, the United Church of Christ passed a resolution in 2005 affirming marriage equality for all. My congregation, Lakewood United Church of Christ, welcomes LGBT Christians into the full life of our congregation and has done so for years.
So please, if your reporters must find Christian sources to quote, then I suggest that they look beyond the loud preacher who makes a sensational story. In short, your reporters should dig deeper; don't go for the easy quotation. There are plenty of inclusive, loving Christian sources. We just don't scream as much.
Mark Gibson, St. Petersburg
A big step for marriage equality | July 18, editorial
All marriages not equal
Once again, the Times uses the words "marriage equality" to herald a court decision against the position of most Americans. There is no equality between heterosexual and homosexual marriages. A homosexual marriage, by definition, will never produce children without outside help and tears a hole in the traditional American fabric of marriage.
Homosexual marriage is not about equal rights, since homosexual marriage is not equal to heterosexual marriage but is about redefining marriage. The court's decision even acknowledges it is flying in the face of majority opinion in America.
Christopher Martinez, St. Petersburg
Rare surplus for budget | July 17
Try some prudence
The good news: Pinellas County has a surplus due to higher property values. The bad news: Like children, the commissioners scramble to find ways to spend it. Why not exercise a bit of common sense and save this money for the next crisis? Heavens, perhaps a tax cut may even be possible.
Marilyn Renner, Dunedin