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Jan. 16 Letters to the Editor

Sloppy reasoning

When Nancy Oden says in her OpEd “No more free passes for Israel” (BDN, Jan. 10-11) that all Jews should be responsible for the actions of some Jews, she holds Jews to a higher standard than any other group. That’s not fair.

It’s also not fair to set up dead-end syllogisms. If any decent person would protest atrocities and if Jews aren’t protesting, then, she implies, Jews must not be decent.

And it’s not fair to create phony simplifications. Oden treats her own assertions as facts and then draws conclusions based on those “facts.” When a writer does that, she’d better be sure she’s accurate.

Her assertion that Rahm Emanuel holds dual citizenship is simply not a fact. It is a longstanding slur. A few minutes with Google would have made that obvious.

So Oden reaches her conclusions by ignoring or denying whatever facts might contradict them.

Even more distressing are her accusations. Accusing Jews of having divided loyalties as she does is an old and very disreputable slander. I object to being told that my conscience is hostage to Israel and that if I did not have dual loyalty, I would protest Israeli actions.

And no slur is more disreputable than the one that Jews secretly control everything. And she does not miss the chance to play that card: “Israel brags that it runs our country …” It does? Brags to whom? When, where?

I assume from Oden’s overwrought style of writing that she is beyond reasoned argument and self-doubt, but I am surprised at the BDN for publishing her.

John Goldfine


• • •

Responding to Israel

Nancy Oden’s OpEd “No more free passes for Israel” (BDN, Jan. 10-11), pleads for responses from American Jews to Israel’s allegedly intentional “slaughter of children in schools and in their beds.”

Here’s mine.

I know of no American Jews that take pleasure in the deaths of civilian Palestinians or in the destruction of Gaza’s schools, homes, etc. — unlike Hamas’ suicide bombers and those who launched hundreds of rockets into northern Israel despite a six-month truce. It clearly makes no difference to Oden and others who demonize Israel and sanctify the Palestinians that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and had hoped that Gaza’s residents would then work toward rebuilding its economy and its infrastructure.

Does Oden know what happened to the greenhouses left by Israel for reuse by Palestinians? Destroyed by the Palestinians within days of Israel’s withdrawal. Oden’s painfully limited knowledge of the facts is reflected in her denunciation of “what the Israeli government has been doing since 1947 to the Palestinians.”

Yet Israel came into existence in 1948, not that such trivialities would disturb Oden’s pathetically simplistic perspective.

Howard Segal


• • •

See Israel more clearly

Bravo, Nancy Oden! (BDN OpEd, Jan. 10-11, “No more free passes for Israel”) for raising legitimate questions concerning our complicity in the tragedy unfolding in Gaza. The myth that plucky little Israel is simply trying to defend herself from crazy Muslims won’t hold the straight face test much longer.

Former President Jimmy Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is among a growing number of Americans who bravely challenge our unflinching support and financial generosity for Israel. Israel receives $3.3 billion a year; only Iraq receives more.

In his book, “Palestinian Peace Not Apartheid,” Carter writes: “The overriding problem is that for more than a quarter of a century the actions of some Israeli leaders have been in direct conflict with the official policies of the U.S., the international community, and their own negotiated agreements … other factors have contributed to the perpetual violence and regional upheaval: the condoning of illegal Israeli actions from a submissive White House and U.S. Congress.”

Carter also writes: “There is constant and vehement political and media debate in Israel concerning its policies in the West Bank, but because of powerful political, economic and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or criticized. Voices from Jerusalem dominate our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.”

Carter was instantly smeared as an anti-Semite.

We need a rigorous debate about America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, how our national interests are served by supporting Israel, and where lies a truly just and moral path.

Jonette Christian


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Headline here

Chemical common sense

No Maine business wants to make or sell a product tainted with toxic lead. (“Lead rule weighs on kids’ clothiers,” BDN Jan. 12).

Lead exposure to a young child can cause a lifetime of learning and behavior problems. Every Maine home should be free of toxic chemicals.

Yet parents and small businesses have been left in the dark.

Manufacturers and chemical companies rarely disclose their use of toxic or untested chemicals in their products.

Our chemical safety system is badly broken. In 2008 nearly eight million children’s products were recalled due to high lead levels, many sold in violation of a 30-year-old ban on lead-painted toys.

Last year, Congress expanded the ban on lead to other children’s products and required safer alternatives to the toxic plastic additives known as phthalates. Manufacturers must certify their products have been tested and meet safety standards.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to do a better job assisting small businesses in understanding these new protections. The law never required retailers to test products. Only manufacturers and importers must certify that independent testing shows their products are safe.

If you’re a small Maine business that handcrafts children’s clothing or toys, don’t despair. Natural fibers, untreated fabric and unpainted wood will be exempt from testing. Manufacturers will supply the market with certified lead-free plastic buttons and decals; metal snaps and zippers; paints and dyes.

Small businesses that want added protection should work with state policymakers to provide for cost-effective testing options.

Only a common sense approach will safeguard children’s health and everyday products from unnecessary dangerous chemicals such as lead.

Mike Belliveau

executive director

Environmental Health Strategy Center


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