In his attempt to justify Israel's demolitions of homes in Gaza, Michael W. Steinberg [letters, May 21] inadvertently pointed out an interesting double standard:

Israelis may possess whatever weapons they want. Palestinians, however, may not possess any weapons, and Palestinian society must suffer collective punishment for suspected violations of this rule -- with punishment administered by Israeli raids into Palestinian territory.

Those not troubled by this double standard, or by the human rights issues involved, should ask themselves: Has Israel made itself more secure by its recent raids -- which left more than 1,200 Palestinians homeless? Terrorist recruiters' phones must be ringing off their hooks.

HARRY APPELMAN

Silver Spring

The writer is a member of the board of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel.

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The May 19 front-page article "Israelis Kill 19 in Gaza Raids" reported the most important fact at the end of the fourth paragraph: "The Israeli army . . . said that 17 of the 19 dead Palestinians were militants."

Imagine if the United States had raided a terrorist camp and killed 17 terrorists and two other people. Wouldn't we be happy that the terrorists were no longer a threat?

From a safe vantage point it is easy to criticize the Israeli raid, but the sixth-grader in Tel Aviv whose bus won't be blown up is relieved.

NEAL URWITZ

Bethesda