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In her letter (“Israel must probe flotilla tragedy,” June 3), Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, shows that further investigation and fact gathering would be helpful and revealing.

A more balanced view than that expressed in the rabbi’s letter is called for.

Certainly she is correct in stating that Israel should initiate a probe of the flotilla incident. Did she think this would not happen without prodding? Of course there will be an open and honest probe; after all, Israel is the only democratic state in the Mideast.

And Rabbi Firestone is also correct in asserting that Israel has the right to defend itself. But that is precisely the intent of the naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza!

Don’t forget that the responses of Hamas to Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza were prolonged rocket barrages against civilian targets (such as the town of Sderot) and other acts of aggression. It is important for the rabbi and all of us to understand that without the naval blockade, arms (likely originating in Iran) would flow to Hamas — and that this might very well lead to another bloody war. You can bet on it.

As for humanitarian aid coming into Gaza: Israel (as well as Egypt, which also fears Hamas) allows a flow of aid, but after inspection and overland, so that a weapons flow does not occur. This is humane and it is completely reasonable. Ships bearing aid, such as those of the flotilla, are asked to dock in the port of Ashod so that this overland route can be used.

The organizers of the flotilla played their cards very well. They knew there would be a high seas incident, and they got what they wanted — the reflexive condemnation of Israel at the U.N. and elsewhere.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “This was not a ‘Love Boat.'” In fact, the primary ship involved in the incident carried a significant contingent from a radical Turkish Islamist group, with known ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly al Qaeda. (Perhaps there was a failure in intelligence gathering here, since Israel apparently did not know that this group was on board.)

Rabbi Firestone says, “These were primarily people of conscience who chose to stand up and do something.” Well, maybe. But there is irrefutable evidence that violent radicals bent on provocation were on board, too.

Dr. R.J. Stern

Concordia University, Montreal

Visiting Boulder

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