Letters to the Editor

From Maryland Peace Action Members

Israel’s apartheid treatment of Palestinians must end

5/20/21 in the Baltimore Sun

I was part of a human rights delegation to the occupied territories of Palestine in 1987 and became familiar with the use of rubber bullets, which are very capable of killing. This trip was during the first intifada, and I visited many homes where the Israeli Defense Force killed a child for alleged stone-throwing.

During the subsequent years, there has been an escalation in state and settler violence against the Palestinians (”Biden calls for ‘significant de-escalation’ from Israel as Gaza conflict continues,” May 19). The armed assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the airstrikes in Gaza, including the destruction of a building which housed media groups, are some recent examples. Unfortunately, my government supports this horrific violence by word and $3.8 billion in U.S. tax dollars.

I find it very timely, though, that as the settler colonialism and the Jim Crow citizenship laws are getting more oppressive, on April 27 Human Rights Watch released “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” This is remarkable and very fitting considering that Israel lacks a government, and its ultra-right prime minister is looking at years in prison. So what better way to turn attention away from his judicial problems than to bomb back to the Stone Age one of the poorest plots of land in the world?

As a pacifist and believer in nonviolence, I urge Hamas to reconsider its violent response to on obdurate Israeli government. Of course, it is easy for me to say turn the other cheek, as I am not suffering under an oppressive occupation. However, I have to believe that some day there will be a U.S. government unbiased against the Palestinians which will work tirelessly to end this apartheid occupation.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

Biden’s budget overspends on military

4/29/21 in the Baltimore Sun

I always look forward to finding an op-ed by Robert Reich in The Baltimore Sun, and I relished reading his latest, “Biden’s industrial policy is the key to his economic restructuring” (April 22).

While praising President Joe Biden’s perspective on economic restructuring, Mr. Reich was not shy in challenging him when his policy perspective went awry: “Mr. Biden’s whopping $715 billion defense budget — larger even than Trump’s last defense budget.” Of course, I agree with the former Bill Clinton cabinet secretary, but would use more derisive language when discussing the obscene military budget.

I am ecstatic to see such criticism in my newspaper, as the military budget is rarely discussed. Also I compliment Mr. Reich for this acidic comment: “The new [industrial policy] should focus on cutting-edge breakthroughs and not be frittered away on pointless projects like the F-35 fighter jet. And it should meet human needs rather than add to an overstuffed defense arsenal.”

Ouch! The Berkeley professor nailed his critique to the wall.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal merits broad support

4/15/21 in the Baltimore Sun

To say I was pleased with the recent commentary, “Biden’s foreign policy challenge: reining in Iran’s nuclear program” (April 13), would be a vast understatement. As a member of Baltimore Peace Action, I and other concerned citizens recognize the importance of convincing President Joe Biden to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Like most everything President Donald Trump did, his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement was disastrous. Iran was in compliance with the agreement which meant it would not become the 10th nuclear weapons country.

Peace Action and so many other groups have been lobbying our senators and representatives to put pressure on President Biden to do the right thing. Then we discovered that several Maryland members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter with Republicans calling on the Biden administration not to re-enter the agreement. We then organized three demonstrations urging our reps to support re-entry. Later, we discovered that Sen. Ben Cardin signed a similar letter. So we held a demonstration outside his Baltimore office and requested a meeting. In response, we were granted a meeting with a foreign policy adviser.

In this meeting, we made three points. First, the nuclear agreement was working and was possibly President Barack Obama’s finest foreign policy achievement. Second, we urged the senator to support lifting President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Iran which are harming the people, not the elite. Sanctions on a country during a pandemic are deeply troubling. And third, we explained how we were baffled that the senator would sign a letter with Sen. Lindsey Graham and other Republicans who would not acknowledge that Mr. Biden won the presidential election. The aide was very accommodating, and indicated he would take our concerns to the senator.

Many of us lobbied very hard to convince Senator Cardin in 2015 to vote in favor of President Obama’s deal with Iran. Unfortunately, we failed to convince him. In 2021, we were not surprised that Senator Cardin was going against President Biden’s campaign promise to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. However, it shocked us that he would sign a letter with 29 Republican senators. This is not the GOP which once included liberal Republicans. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

There was no need for one of my senators to sign this letter. Mr. Cardin could have simply told the president that he was unwilling to support him on this issue. Instead, he joined with senators from a party that unanimously voted against COVID-19 relief. Those of us in the peace and justice movement will continue to push the president to rejoin this agreement. It benefits everyone as its intent is to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. I am confident that the Biden administration will see the light and will prevent Iran from going nuclear.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

U.S. should rejoin nuclear deal with Iran

3/30/21 in the Baltimore Sun
Co-organizer Medea Benjamin, right, with Code Pink, gives remarks as a coalition of the groups Maryland Peace Action and Code Pink held a rally in front of Rep. Anthony Brown’s Annapolis office to protest their concerns over the congressman’s reluctance to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette). 

Thank you for the brilliant analysis by Melvin Goodman (”Biden administration’s approach to Russia and China unproductive,” March 26). Mr. Goodman outlines some of the errors made so far by President Joe Biden and his administration with regard to Russia and China, errors which make a dangerous and costly Cold War much more likely. As he points out, the only winners when tensions are ramped up like this between these countries and ours are the arms manufacturers beholden to the Pentagon.

A critical foreign policy issue that Mr. Goodman did not discuss, but that is also extremely problematic, is the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration with Iran, then unilaterally canceled by President Donald Trump. This deal showed what is possible with respectful, concerted diplomacy. It was working to reduce the probability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and its success increased the likelihood of further treaties between the two countries on other important issues. Intrusive inspections in Iran were a part of that deal, and these inspections proved that Iran had complied in all respects with its responsibilities under the deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Joe Biden campaigned on a pledge to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, but he has made no effort to do so, and due to internal politics in Iran, including upcoming elections, time is rapidly running out for the U.S. to return to the deal. President Biden has important domestic issues to deal with, but losing this opportunity to ramp down tensions in the Middle East would be a huge mistake and disastrous for U.S. foreign policy in that region. The Biden administration should immediately rejoin the JCPOA, without adding new, unrelated preconditions (being demanded by some in Congress who never liked the deal to begin with), and should also lift all the Trump-era sanctions on Iran which have devastated Iran’s economy, impeded its ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and deeply harmed the people of Iran.

There is no excuse for the Biden administration to ignore such an important foreign policy issue.

Jean Athey, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Maryland Peace Action.