Freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion, is crucial to the stability of all countries. Arming religion with lethal weaponry plus public funds is a very bad idea ("A dangerous turning point in Israel," July 7).

The Israel-Palestine conflict has always been personal for the people who live there, and the momentum for making the Israel-Palestine conflict into a religious conflagration starts with the fact that Israel foolishly insists on being "a Jewish state."

Israel being "Jewish" translates into taxpayers' money and international aid generously funding Israeli policies that privilege Jews, including but not limited to Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Jews-only settlement projects built on land usurped from native, non-Jewish Arab Palestinians.

These policies have created and exasperated a huge refugee crisis, with countless Palestinians pushed into poverty, forced exile and despair.

Islamist extremists have risen up to make a bad situation worse in every possible way. Were it not for the Islamists' reign of terror, many more people and governments worldwide would have much more sympathy and compassion for the Palestinians' plight.

Advocating full respect for international law and universal basic human rights to shape a secular, two-state solution with two sovereign nations living side by side in peace and security is the only way out of the mess made by the religious extremists and hatemongers on both sides.

There are many good and decent people on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict who deserve a chance to live and raise their children in peace and dignity. Worldwide the rule of fair and just laws is an ongoing process that requires educated, empowered and engaged citizens who are willing and able to see beyond their own personal suffering and sorrows. The best revenge is living well.

Anne Selden Annab, Mechanicsburg, Penn.

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