The Guardian 2 March, 2005

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Open Letter to President Katsav

We are Jewish Australians who feel great concern for Israel, and welcome the recent reduction in violence and the fragile opportunity to move towards peace. We are however deeply ashamed of the policies which have been pursued by the current Israeli government. We condemn all attacks on civilians, but cannot accept that Israeli retaliation of demolishing homes, destroying ancient olive groves, and bombing crowded residential areas in the occupied Palestinian territories has ever been justified.

We believe there can never be a military solution to this conflict, as any temporary "victories" leave such a bitter legacy of hatred. Long term peace can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement which recognises the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis to live in self governed lands.

The Barrier being built through the occupied Palestinian Territories is causing untold hardship to Palestinians. Houses and fields are destroyed, people are cut off from their families, schools, health services, and workplaces, and travel is almost impossible. The International Court of Justice has ruled that it breaks international law.

We write as Jews because Israel claims to act on behalf of Jews world wide, and reject the notion that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. We recall your brave offer two years ago to address the Palestinian Parliament for a temporary truce, and ask you to take this message to the Israeli government and the people of Israel.

We urge you to act now to stop Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories, and to engage with your neighbours to find real security, based on peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Letter signed by more than 40 individuals
Presented to President Katsav during his visit to Australia

Australian troops
face depleted uranium

Hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans are now suffering from a syndrome which eminent scientists like Doug Rokke, former head of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project, attribute to exposure to depleted uranium.

DU has been found in the blood and urine of civilians and military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon itself warns that all exposed personnel must have medical attention (Medical Management of Unusual Depleted Uranium Casualties, DOD, Pentagon, 10/14/93 and Medical Management of Army personnel Exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) Headquarters, US Army Medical Command 29 April 2004).

Australians are now being sent to Samawah which was used as a dump for materiel destroyed by DU tipped shells; it is radioactive. Our Defence Department said it would "conduct reconnaissance before the deployment" (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb.24).

If Beazley is sincere about supporting Australian troops going to Iraq he should immediately challenge the government on this issue.

Sailors were barred from going to Iraq because they refused vaccination will those who refuse radiological exposure be similarly treated?

Gareth Smith
Byron Bay, NSW

Missing feelings

So Tony Abbott has found some feeling for his own flesh and blood. When will he find some feelings for the Australians who will suffer under Howard's new Penal Provisions against Trade unions and Trade Unionists?

Denis Kevans
Wentworth Falls, NSW

Only one way out of Iraq

The discussion of how many Australian troops should have been or should be sent to Iraq to "protect" the Japanese contingent there is flawed. First of all we should ask a question: "Should there be any troops there at all?" Never mind all those motherhood statements of "we should finish the job". There are jobs and jobs. It's like a bank robber saying "I can't leave this bank at the moment as I haven't finished the job yet".

There has never been a reason for Australia to invade a country which presented no danger to Australia and was in effect a good trading partner. It should be clear to even those with cement blobs for brains that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, that the US manipulated the "willing" into a pack rape of the country for its own interests. Having said that, what I am interested to know is why, when access to information about Iraq should be possible we do not know anything about what really is happening in the country.

How do ordinary people live? How do farmers grow their produce? What is the food situation? All those civilian structures that had been trashed by the "willing" have they been rebuilt? What does a normal family do on a normal day?

We know that wars are profitable only for those death merchants who supply arms, ammunition and everything else they can overcharge for. Civilians are usually the ones to suffer.

Soldiers as a rule are better fed, equipped and paid. Nevertheless, they also pay a high price for somebody else's military adventures. I'm not even talking about depleted uranium and what it's doing to them, the civilians and the kids yet (if) to be born.

Last Saturday's Herald had an article about a very high rate of suicides among the Japanese soldiers highest ever. Seventy-eight soldiers have killed themselves in the past 11 months according to the Japan Defence Agency. The death rate among soldiers is higher than the national average in Japan. I'd like to quote the Herald: "The acting director of Tokyo Lifeline, Yumiko Misaki, said soldiers who had been sent to Iraq were particularly susceptible to stress and depression. They found it difficult to adjust when they returned to Japan, she said."

We hear nothing about those Australian soldiers who are back from Iraq. Are they left damaged and depressed with only their families to look after them?

Whichever way you look at it, it's time to leave Iraq.

A Sampson
Fairfield, NSW

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