Eugene Robinson believes that "the tumult in the Gaza Strip looks like nothing less than a pogrom" ["Betrayed in Gaza," op-ed, Aug. 19]. This statement could be made only by someone who has little idea of what a real pogrom entailed.

Whether referring to the 1881 events in the Russian empire, for which the word was first used, or more broadly to analogous earlier events (in the Rhineland in 1096, the Iberian Peninsula in 1391, eastern Poland in 1648-49), a "pogrom" did not entail unarmed, disciplined representatives of a democratic government enforcing the law with admirable restraint on citizens who chose to defy it. A "pogrom" meant indiscriminate massacre of a helpless Jewish population, while the government was unwilling or unable to prevent it.

The use of this alleged historical analogy, like the even more outrageous claim of some Gaza Jewish settlers to be like victims of the Holocaust, who were deported by the Nazis not to new homes in the state of Israel but to death camps, is a blatantly provocative misuse of the past not to illuminate but to obscure the present.

-- Marc Saperstein

Washington

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Eugene Robinson is incorrect. The Israeli government did not betray the settlers being removed from Gaza, nor did it act duplicitously in moving settlers into the occupied territories years before.

One of the first duties of the state is to ensure the national defense of its borders and the security of its citizens. Establishing settlements in the occupied territories was a sound strategic decision. It filled a vacuum, and it had the potential of forcing Palestinians to negotiate in good faith to regain their lands.

Leaving the land unoccupied while waiting for a peace settlement would have been disastrous policy. And the Israeli leadership did not use its citizens as pawns, nor did it forsake them. The government played a strategic hand that did not work as planned, but it was a hand that had to be tried.

If the Palestinians had been good-faith partners, it could have been an important step to a lasting peace. That it did not work out that way does not obviate the soundness of the settlement effort in the first place nor the soundness of now removing the settlers.

-- Michael Hutton

Urbana