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Where is outcry against killing of Israeli civilians?

As a long-time supporter of Israel, I share the grief for the loss of innocent lives that accompanied the killing of Salah Shehada. But the European, U.N. and Arab condemnation over the killing of the Hamas commander is in sharp contrast to the often nonexistent world response to regular and deliberate killing of Israeli civilians by terrorist groups directly connected with or encouraged by the Palestinian Authority.

Shehada was on a two-year killing spree because the Palestinian Authority refused to arrest him. Israel faced the reality that hundreds more innocent Jewish lives would be lost if Shehada were not stopped. He was in the process of preparing a large-scale terrorist attack inside Israel. He constituted a ticking bomb, and the Israeli government felt he had to be stopped. The Palestinian leaders are the ones responsible for Shehada's remaining free. They are the ones who should be condemned for the deaths of Palestinian children.

Shehada, like many terrorists, sought shelter among civilians. He knowingly placed them in grave danger, creating a difficult dilemma for Israel with regard to his capture or removal. This is in direct violation of the Geneva Accords. Yet that is exactly what the Palestinian Authority has done repeatedly in places like Jenin, as well as by sheltering Shehada in Gaza.

Hamas has made the killing of Israeli children a goal. Its members get paid by Iran and Iraq for every dead Jew. Together with Yasser Arafat, they started this ugly war. Had the Palestinian people spoken out when Israeli children were murdered, and done something to stop it, they would not now be mourning the loss of their own children _ a loss for which we all feel sorrow.

Jenny E. Alexander, Largo

Remember Truman

In 1945 President Harry Truman made a wartime decision to launch an attack he knew would kill tens of thousands civilians. The justification then, and still widely held now, was the necessity to avoid the loss of many more American lives in an effort to win.

How can we deny that same rationale to the Israeli government in an effort to stop or at least minimize its losses by targeting a man responsible for many of those losses? It is without a doubt a measured, justified and most unfortunate circumstance of people at war.

Kevin Lavin, U.S. Navy, retired, St. Petersburg

Provoking the terrorists

Several weeks ago, President Bush called on Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop the incursions into Palestine, work toward restoring the borders prior to the Israeli occupation in 1967 and to help bring about a Palestinian state.

This week, Sharon again totally dismissed the condemnation coming from the United Nations and President Bush in regard to the bombardment that killed many civilians. Sharon did this on the pretext that it killed a high-ranking Hamas leader. And it came at a time when even key Hamas leaders were ready to offer a peace agreement.

No one in the civilized world would condone the suicide bombers connected to the terrorist groups in the killing of Israeli civilians. Not even Arafat or the top Palestinian officials can control these self-destructive loonies _ no more than Bush can control all of the loonie terrorists in this country, like those involved in Oklahoma City.

Sharon's constant dismissal of the pleas of the United Nations and of our government is making it obvious that he is the guilty one in continuing to provoke the suicidal terrorists to retaliate. And he dares as well to compare our fight in Afghanistan against a heavily armed terrorist army with that in Palestine in what amounts to his cannons and rockets against sling shots.

It's no wonder why all of the European nations are condemning Sharon as the true villain in the Middle East peace process. Maybe its time we likewise "dismiss" the idea of giving $3-billion of our tax dollars to Israel and put it to better use: toward the peace process.

B.L. Kearns, New Port Richey

Uproar highlights hypocrisy

All the news reports have expressed anger and disapproval of the action taken by the Israeli government to kill Salah Shehada, the man who planned so many of the murders of Israeli civilians. The news reports indicated disapproval of bombing a building in a populated area. Shehada was living with his wife and daughter and an aide in this building. The Israelis believed it was a successful surgical strike, like the ones used in Afghanistan.

Why was this murderer of civilians living among the Palestinian populace? He obviously felt living in a densely populated area would protect him. Isn't that how the Palestinians protect their fighters? Isn't this what they did when the armed militants went into the church in Bethlehem?

Leaders of some very powerful nations, including our president, made it known that this was too aggressive an action. I am pleased with the uproar created. I have waited a long time for the Europeans and the United Nations to express distress over the killing of civilians. They say it is a war crime, a crime against humanity.

The United Nations has never cried out against the killing of innocent Israeli civilians. How dare these people sit in judgment against "collateral damage" while officially ignoring the homicide bombers and the targeting of noncombatants by Palestinians.

If members of the world community believe the killing of civilians is an atrocity, to be considered a crime against humanity, then they have to be consistent, and maybe then the Palestinians will accept less than the whole pie. They might react differently if they felt they were condemned for these atrocities. Israel wants peace. The Palestinians have yet to show they are willing to stop the killing of civilians and sit down at the bargaining table.

Marilyn Ginsburg, Boynton Beach

Feeding the rage

Israel needs suicide bombers to once again turn attention away from the brutality of the Israeli occupation and colonization. Only days ago the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas said his organization would consider stopping attacks if Israel withdrew from reoccupied West Bank cities, stopped destruction of Palestinian homes, released prisoners and halted hunt-and-kill missions. Essentially it was an offer to end resistance to the occupation in exchange for an end to the occupation.

Israel was quick to put an end to any ideas of ending suicide attacks by sending an American made F-16 to flatten buildings, kill children and feed the rage of the Palestinian people. Only now, with its monstrous disregard for life and revolting cowardly actions, Israel has begun to once again enrage the rest of the world as well.

Isam Sweilem, Tampa

Stay away from terrorists

Re: Heavy-handed action, editorial, July 25.

I think the lesson to be learned by the Palestinians is "don't invite a Hamas terrorist to dinner." If you do, be prepared to accept collateral damage. There is no such thing as innocent civilians in a war. It all depends on which side of the fence you are on.

Bob Coffey, Clearwater

Amtrak is for everyone

Re: "It's a luxury thing," letter, July 18.

The letter writer is seriously misinformed about Amtrak.

Yes, Amtrak's sleeping car fares are high. They've been increasing steadily since 1997, when Amtrak was ordered by Congress to become self-sufficient in five years _ a goal no rail system in the world has been able to meet.

Amtrak's coach fares, on the other hand, are more in line with the airlines' rates, and millions of lower- and middle-income Americans travel in Amtrak coaches each year. Some also bring their own food to save more money.

For many lower-income folks living in smaller cities like Ocala, or rural states like Montana, the train is a lifeline, not a luxury. It is often the only choice they have for long-distance travel.

In my train travels, I've met people of all ages from all walks of life. On an airliner, one is separated into first class and economy sections, and everyone stays in his place according to social station. Traveling by car, families stay in self-contained units, rarely interacting with anyone else. On Amtrak, everyone mingles in the lounge and dining cars _ rich and poor, young and old, black and white. It is a truly democratic experience.

As for "low-level whining" about funding, consider this: In its entire 31-year history, Amtrak has gotten about $24-billion in federal subsidies. Contrast that with the nation's highway system, which got $33.5-billion in 2001 alone; or the airlines, which consumed $12.3-billion of the American workers' tax money last year (not including $15-billion in direct bailouts appropriated to the airlines after Sept. 11, courtesy of the taxpayers). Amtrak is a bargain by comparison.

Amtrak is not a land cruise for the elite. It's there for everyone, and it deserves our support.

Bill Hirschi, Ocala

Teacher pay comparisons lacking

Re: How little Florida pays its teachers, by Bill Maxwell, July 17.

As the husband of a retired Pinellas County school teacher, I would be the first to agree that teachers are underpaid.

I am well aware of Bill Maxwell's political views. I just wish he would research his "facts" more thoroughly.

Over the years, my wife taught elementary school in Louisiana, California, North Carolina and Florida. In tossing out figures on salaries, Maxwell conveniently leaves out information about the cost of living in various states. Does anyone doubt that a beginning teacher's salary of $33,000-plus in San Francisco buys much less than a $30,000 salary in Pinellas? Is Maxwell aware that Pinellas teachers contribute nothing to their retirement plan whereas teachers in California make a substantial contribution? The same is true regarding hospitalization premiums.

Everyone agrees that teachers deserve more compensation for the work that they do, but, alas, as he does so often, Maxwell compares apples and oranges and comes up with grapefruit! His political agenda is showing.

John Hungerford, Palm Harbor

Teacher pay not so bad

Re: How little Florida pays its teachers.

Bill Maxwell's argument that teachers are underpaid is flawed by the fact that teaching is not a full-time job. Measured either by days worked or hours worked, teachers work about 75 percent of most full-time jobs. Thus, a teacher's beginning salary of $28,986 is equivalent to $38,648; the average teacher's salary of $43,250 is equivalent to $57,667 on a full-time basis. These salaries are not lower than those for other equivalent college graduates.

In Florida, the average teacher salary of $38,230 two years ago is equivalent to $50,973 on a full-time basis. This is not as bad as Bill Maxwell and the American Federation of Teachers would like for you to believe.

Arthur M. Richard, St. Petersburg

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