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Cooperation of Hamas, Israel a positive sign

A level of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories has always existed ("Basic needs give Hamas reason to call its enemy," June 3).

It has been a necessity for both sides.

Cooperation is needed by Israel so it can govern, and by Palestinians to acquire and maintain basic services.

Traditionally, before the intifadas, the point of contact for the Palestinians with the Israeli government was through community or village leaders called mukhtars. Among younger Palestinians, however, after years of occupation with little improvement in their lives, the mukhtars came to be seen as too accommodating to Israeli authority.

During the first and second intifadas, which were an expression of frustration with the status quo, the mukhtars lost their authority to deal with Israeli officials.

In their place, committees made up of village representatives became the medium through which Palestinians and Israelis dealt with each other at the official level.

In many of these committees, Hamas members worked with other Palestinians to represent a broader range of Palestinians interests.

The latest examples of Hamas-Israeli cooperation noted in the article is significant not because it is a new development. What is significant is that cooperation between ideological enemies is spreading and is now taking place outside of East Jerusalem in other parts of the occupied territories.

Now, Israeli contact with Hamas is at the municipal and the national level.

This deeper and broader level of contact may lead to a normalized relationship characterized by civil cooperation rather than armed conflict and brute force.

John Bailey


More accurate terms for Israeli occupiers

Mark Rosenblum's column "Remove illegal settlements now" (Opinion

Commentary, June 2) was on target in pointing out that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's refusal to dismantle the illegal outposts reneges on his commitments to President Bush and to the peace process, undermining Israeli democracy and the rule of law.

However, I would take issue with the language Mr. Rosenblum and others use in discussing these "settlements" or "outposts."

A settler is defined as "a person who settles in a new country or area," evoking our American pioneer heritage (though even it now seems flawed).

These Israeli extremists are not settlers of unoccupied land. They use arms and intimidation to wrest land from rightful Palestinian owners.

"Squatter" might be an appropriate term. "Claim jumper" might fit, especially since these individuals often appropriate all-important water rights along with the land. Or maybe "landgrabber" - "a person who seizes land illegally or underhandedly."

"Usurper" also fits, as it means "to seize and hold ... by force or without legal authority."

Perhaps if we begin to use more accurate language and images in framing our discussions of this topic, we may begin to find our way toward a just, peaceful solution with true, cohesive states for both Israel and Palestine.

Deborah Matherly


Older homeowners need more tax help

The Sun's editorial "Sheltering seniors" (June 6) raised a much-needed concern for a certain segment of the senior population, but there are other retired people on fixed incomes who need help as well.

Property taxes in Baltimore are causing many of us to consider relocation - out of the city, and even out of state - by necessity, not choice.

The credits available to seniors through the antiquated Homeowners' Tax Credit Program need to be revised to make it more feasible for many of us to remain in the state.

Otherwise, the city will continue to become only a home for the super-rich and the poor, and middle-class citizens will have no option but to leave for other locations.

Lawrence Grissom


Eliminating filibuster only narrows power

In response to the letter "GOP senators betray battle to save nation" (June 3), I have to wonder just how the liberal judiciary "continues to steer Americans toward cultural Armageddon."

The filibuster is the last resort that Democrats have to keep from being completely overwhelmed and ignored by the Republicans in the Senate.

Eliminating this tool to serve the Republicans' needs doesn't seem like a way to create the "Shining City on the Hill" that America should be.

Peter Hansen


Founders didn't seek to sideline religion

A recent letter writer demonstrated great historical ignorance in asserting that our nation's founders sought to keep "religion and government apart from each other" ("The use of religion puts peril into politics," letters, June 4).

The Founding Fathers never intended that the sentiments of religious people be discounted or negated.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the U.S. Congress from establishing a national religion.

This was to ensure that everyone would be free to worship God according to the dictates of conscience and apart from the coercive power of the federal government.

But when a citizen believes that democracy is being "chipped away" when religious citizens participate in public discourse and the democratic process, that demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of our history and the founders' intentions.

David P. Gilmore

Glen Burnie

The writer teaches history at Calvary Chapel Christian Academy.

Mother's bad choices perpetuate the cycle

Anyone would be sympathetic to Annie Dozier, who lost three sons in about three years to the street violence in Baltimore ("'Vicious cycle' takes its toll on one family," June 7). However, parents can put an end to this cycle.

Ms. Dozier's choices helped continue this cycle. She chose to have four children with four different fathers. There could obviously be no stability in that home, so the children had little opportunity to learn about responsibility.

Ms. Dozier chose to commit murder, which put her in prison. Her children blamed her for "putting them into foster care." They are right.

And even after all of this, she chose to have a fifth child with a fifth father, even while her surviving daughter is still in foster care.

How can anyone explain to their new child about responsibility, when the family has not taken responsibility for her older sibling?

I have nothing personal against Ms. Dozier. But no one forced her to make the decisions she made.

Until parents make the choices that break this "vicious cycle," it is sure to continue.

Michael Connell


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