Israel, Hamas and the Rules of War

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  • A Mideast Protest by Congressional Staffers
  • D.I.Y. College Rankings
  • Rich in New York
  • Fake Reviews

An Israeli artillery unit shelling an area along the border with Gaza.Credit…Martin Divisek/EPA, via Shutterstock

To the Editor:

Re “What I Believe as a Historian of Genocide,” by Omer Bartov (Opinion guest essay,, Nov. 10):

Mr. Bartov, a Holocaust scholar, warns that Israel is very likely committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza that can devolve into genocide. To show “genocidal intent,” he cites furious Israeli statements made immediately after Oct. 7.

But these do not reflect actual Israeli policies toward civilians. Israel’s targets are military: Hamas’s soldiers, tunnels, headquarters and weapons stocks. By placing military targets in and under civilian structures, it is Hamas that violates laws of war.

The 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention mentions demonstrable intent to destroy a national, racial or religious group. Mr. Bartov is mute about Israel’s hundreds of phone calls to Gazans warning them to leave buildings in which Hamas fighters were located.Israel has urged civilians to evacuate to the south to escape battle. A government intent on genocide would do the opposite.

A cease-fire now would leave Hamas’s leadership and its massive tunnel structures intact. Hamas would declare victory and prepare for the next round of killing. Mr. Bartov’s article and the demonstrations around the world accusing Israel of genocide would, intentionally or not, have the effect of consigning Israel to live next to a terrorist state committed to its destruction. No state in the world would accept such a situation.

Norman J.W. Goda
Jeffrey Herf
Mr. Goda is a professor of Holocaust studies at the Center for Jewish Studies, University of Florida. Mr. Herf is professor emeritus of history at the University of Maryland, College Park.

To the Editor:

In an urgent effort to prevent genocide, Omer Bartov writes about the horrific carnage committed by Israel in Gaza. He also speaks forcefully about the massacre by Hamas. In the course of doing it, just by doing it, he also illustrates the total insanity of “rules of war.” I say this with great respect for what he is trying to do.

But to live and die in a world that makes distinctions between crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, proportionality, etc., you can lose sight how all of it is utter madness. Just as “no option is off the table” means that nuclear war is somehow a rational final option. Equally disturbing is that anything short of that might be considered acceptable.

Robert Roth
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Measuring Israel by the Yardstick of a ‘Just War,’” by A. Walter Dorn (Opinion guest essay, Nov. 13):

Professor Dorn examines whether Israel is adhering to the moral framework of “just war” theory. Yet he reveals himself to be unserious when he suggests that Israel should negotiate with Hamas because “negotiation with adversaries, however distasteful, has often proven successful.”

Hamas leaders have made it quite clear that they have no interest in peace with Israel. They wish to destroy the Jewish state and slaughter its Jewish inhabitants. Just ask them.

The only chance for peace is for Hamas to be removed from the equation. Tragically, many Palestinian civilians who are being used as human shields will lose their lives in the process.

David Westrich
Teaneck, N.J.

To the Editor:

The plight of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza has captured attention around the world. Supplies of food, medicine, water and fuel are desperately needed. The situation in the hospitals is especially concerning.

These problems can be alleviated quickly, and the power to do this lies with Hamas. Release all the hostages in return for a cease-fire. Move any Hamas fighters at the hospitals elsewhere so that the hospitals are no longer in the battlefield.

Many demonstrations around the world are well motivated but are not aimed at the proper target: Hamas.

Robert N. Cahn
Walnut Creek, Calif.

A Mideast Protest by Congressional Staffers

Congressional staff members holding a demonstration outside the Capitol last week.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Congressional Aides Break With Bosses Over the Israel-Hamas War” (news article, Nov. 14):

Congressional staffers held a demonstration to protest the deaths of the thousands of civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, in the war between Israel and Hamas. The protest is well intended but misguided.

Israel has the right to defend itself and remove the entity that threatens its survival. The fact that many Palestinian civilians have been killed lies with Hamas, which uses them as shields. Yes, that creates a devastating loss of civilians, but place the blame where it belongs.

What else is wrong with the protest is that the protesters don’t have the courage to show their faces or give their names. Where’s their conviction? If they have a position to take, they should have the guts to show themselves. Otherwise, it’s a sham.

Marshall Cossman
Grand Blanc, Mich.

D.I.Y. College Rankings

Build Your Own College Rankings

The values that you care about most should inform your top college choices.

To the Editor:

Re “Build Your Own College Rankings,” by Quoctrung Bui and Jessia Ma (Opinion interactive,, updated on Nov. 9):

It doesn’t seem to matter how many critiques of college rankings systems are published; people still obsess over these data. This is why I enjoyed the Opinion piece allowing readers to build college rankings around their own priorities and goals.

The pernicious narrative that there is a single best college for all students contributes to the anxiety and despair (from students and parents!) that are associated with the entire college admissions process.

As a college administrator, and a parent, I wish the narrative would shift to the idea behind these personal rankings: an acknowledgment that there are many amazing higher education institutions that provide a transformative experience to students depending on what they need and desire.

Schools with the best-known names, or the most money, are not going to be the best fit for all students. It’s far more important that students feel that the institution they choose has a welcoming community, meets their personal goals and is a place where they will have the support they need to thrive.

Jessica L. Lakin
Madison, N.J.
The writer is the provost and a professor of psychology at Drew University.

Rich in New York

Zero Bond, Mayor Eric Adams’s favorite private club, is part of a new wave of members-only and concierge services catering to New York City’s wealthiest residents.Credit…Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Haute Living

To the Editor:

Re “100 Percent the Big Apple, Yet One for Members Only” (news article, Nov. 12), about a new wave of ultraexclusive services for the wealthy in New York City:

The delight and strength of New York lie in its diversity, including the moneyed classes. If the middle class and the poor find New York beyond their means, so will artists, and the city will lose most of its intellectual and creative wealth — its most important assets.

And the rich can just be “rich together,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it. They are welcome to their clubs and hobnobbing among themselves.

Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney
Sayville, N.Y.

Fake Reviews

Credit…Christina Lee

To the Editor:

Re “Mounting a New Effort to Combat Fake Reviews” (front page, Nov. 14):

To borrow a phrase from the world of nuclear disarmament, trust but verify. A limited number of consumer sites have already solved the problem of fake reviews: You must verify that you have bought a product or used a service before a review posts.

That should be easy for a large site to integrate into its review system. It just requires the will to do it.

Julian Fisher
Brookline, Mass.

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