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An Israeli solider rides on top an armoured personnel carrier close to the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Nov. 15, 2012. (Ariel Schalit/AP)
An Israeli solider rides on top an armoured personnel carrier close to the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Nov. 15, 2012. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

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Nov. 19: Déjà vu in the Middle East, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Mideast déjà vu

Only the French language can do justice to the situation in southern Israel-Gaza: déjà vu (I admit, this is almost English), and the more Gallic plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Déjà vu, because we are back where we were during Israel’s last attempt to dry up the rain of missiles: Hamas, for reasons of its own, has kept lobbing these bombs indiscriminately across the border, trying their best to hit our civilians. Until now, Israel protests, complains to the United Nations, etc., makes pinprick and ineffectual responses. Finally, as would any normal authority, she gets fed up and responds forcefully. Who wouldn’t? As a physician, working under fire at an 1,100-bed hospital in Beersheba, I’m glad our government is trying.

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: Listening to a call-in show on BBC, I heard, from different persons around the world, the same tired, absurd arguments blaming Israel for the whole problem.

The sad truth is that, while Israel withdrew from Gaza a number of years ago, hoping for neighbourly relations with the Palestinians, all we got back was rockets. What is really tragic (and I am not playing down the suffering we are undergoing, I have felt it personally) is that, in the end, Hamas will bring down a huge tragedy onto the Palestinians. They and their many apologists will of course blame the Zionists – déjà vuet plus ça change … – but that hardly changes the truth of the matter.

A. Mark Clarfield, MD, Soroka Hopsital, Beersheba, Israel

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Given that Israel has every right to exist in peace within its borders, it has little option but to retaliate against rocket fire. However, the root of the problem lies with the fact that Israel continues to allow the building of settlements that clearly violate Palestinian land.

A lasting peace will only become possible when the sovereignty of Palestinian territory and the right to statehood are recognized and implemented. The Palestinians have an inherent right to their own state, defined by borders not continually being breached by Israel.

Until such time as the West, particularly the U.S., realizes that Israel has to agree to establish borders that are reasonably commensurate with the actual founding of its established rights, not past conflicts, a solution will not be forthcoming.

The conflict between the two sides has existed for three-quarters of a century. Is it not time to arrive at a settlement that is fair and just to both sides? Palestinians in the Gaza are subjected to conditions imposed by Israel which are far below acceptable levels for human rights and living standards.

Phillip M. Wood, Halifax

On their own

Ian Brown points out that before Philippe Pinel’s 1794 Memoir on Madness, the mentally disabled were left to live and die on the streets of Paris (Love’s Outer Reaches – Focus, Nov. 17). Interestingly enough, since the end of institutional care in the 1970s (Canada followed the U.S. lead in that), once again, a great many of the mentally disabled are left to live and die on the streets of Canada’s major cities, or in their prisons. This is progress?

Elly Werb, Vancouver

Old-boys mentality

Margaret Wente presents an oversimplified, exaggerated and stereotyped opinion on the different academic needs of boys and girls (Celebrate Boys’ Boyness, And Work With It – Focus, Nov. 17). Men have become successful academics for decades under similar educational structures.

There are many dramatic changes to our society that are more likely to blame for a decline in male academic success: the explosion of electronics and video games; the uncensored and unedited Internet; the increase in divorce rates; the decreased emphasis on physical activity in children; the rise in obesity in children. Need I go on? I’m guessing these changes are more significant on learning than any changes to our public education system, and there may be several gender differences in how these societal changes impact learning.

“Existential issues” are different for girls and boys; however, we should give boys more credit than to presume they are just lacking “rituals, trophies and tradition.”

Chryssa McAlister, Toronto

All eggs in oil basket

Re Peak Oil? More Like Peak Canada – Focus, Nov. 17: Doug Saunders is absolutely right about the economic policy of the current Conservative government (even if he doesn’t name it outright). As any prudent and wise investor knows, the secret for long-term growth is investment in different types of assets. This applies to individuals as well as to countries. Stephen Harper and his coterie of Alberta-based thinkers believe that they can abandon prudence for ideology and have staked the economic future of this country on a single asset: the tar sands, instead of pursuing investment in a greater variety of economic sectors. Let us hope that our citizens recognize this massive error in time. 2015 cannot come too soon.

Manuel Buchwald, Toronto

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Doug Saunders will find that ordinary Canadians have gone deeper into debt primarily because their incomes have been falling, not because of hubris over the notion of their country as an energy superpower.

Michael Valpy, Toronto

Dirty 30s lessons

It is terrifying that we seem to have forgotten the lessons of the 1930s (Fiscal Cliff? More Like A Bad Overhang – Nov. 14).

Employment depends upon the demand for goods, both consumption and capital, and services. That demand depends primarily upon the aggregate incomes of residents and its distribution, because low-income households spend a greater proportion of additional income than high-income. To cut government spending when private businesses are unwilling to spend on labour or new capital goods is to reduce household incomes, and hence the demand for goods and services – and to reduce employment, not increase it.

Tax revenues fall, because incomes fall; deficits may increase, not decrease. The notion that increased marginal tax rates on high household incomes is a deterrent to investment is largely a shibboleth. Their negative impact on consumption expenditures is minimized by falling primarily on personal saving.

All this is well-known. Why are we fighting these battles again, and imposing misery upon millions of people who are the victims of a private sector that, for all of its many accomplishments, is from time to time unstable and unable to rescue itself from that instability?

Brian Bixley, professor emeritus, Department of Economics, Glendon College, York University

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Is the “fiscal cliff” the new WMD for us ordinary folks?

Shaker Nasrullah, Toronto

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