It is with great concern that I read the Feb. 18 column by Dan Simpson ("Genocide and Mass Atrocities: The Human Stain"). Mr. Simpson refers to a report developed by the Academy of Diplomacy, of which he is a member; the U.S. Institute of Peace and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It defines genocide as a "large scale and deliberate attack on civilians."
A problem arises with the column when Mr. Simpson discusses Israel's recent military action in Gaza. He states, "Those in sympathy with the Palestinians in Gaza began to call Israeli military action genocidal." I believe it is Mr. Simpson who implicitly is calling Israel's actions genocidal. What is troubling is that he either does not understand the term genocide or simply does not care. Mr. Simpson omits that Israel is responding to months of bombardment by rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists on civilians in southern Israel. The deaths of innocent civilians are always a tragedy, but when Hamas has as its military strategy the use of civilians as human shields, Israel must defend itself. Whenever possible, Israel avoids doing harm to civilians, and these actions are clearly not on the same scale as a genocide.
Mr. Simpson's use of the term "genocidal" is particularly reckless, hurtful and mean-spirited, especially because the very term itself was coined by a Polish-Jewish lawyer escaping the Nazi regime in 1941, Raphael Lemkin, trying to describe the large-scale persecution and slaughter of millions of his co-religionists by the Nazis. It is also profoundly painful to the hundreds of thousands of survivors living in Israel today, the very remnants of European Jewry, who helped build the Jewish state.
EDIE B. NAVEH
Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh