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Occupation Hazards

To the Editor:

Jonathan Schiff complained about Metroland’s news coverage of the United We Stand With Israel and Against Terrorism rally held at the state Capitol on Sept. 9 [Letters, Sept. 19]. He chastised reporter Travis Durfee for referring to the counterdemonstrators as “pro-peace” and questioned if Durfee “is suggesting that the pro-Israelis are anti-peace?”

I was one of the “pro-peace” protestors quoted in the article. I believe that many, but certainly not all, “pro-Israeli” people are anti-peace, often without realizing it. Generally speaking in the United States these days, to be “pro-Israel” means to endorse the policies of the Israeli government, including the 35-year-old occupation, continuing land confiscations, and settlements for Jews only in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. People who are pro-Israel and anti- occupation are often labeled as “anti-Israel” by the pro-occupationists.

The occupation is virtually universally recognized as a violation of international law; it is also widely seen as being extremely cruel and often sadistic.

I did not hear any of the dozen speakers at the rally call for an end to the occupation. Most of the rally speakers clearly support the continued occupation even if they do not acknowledge it. Some “pro-Israelis” I have met over the years deny that there is an occupation. To be pro-occupation makes one anti-peace because the occupation can only be maintained via force and violence.

Schiff called upon Metroland to pay more attention to “the diversity of pro-peace plans in the pro-Israel community rather than devoting so much space to the hoary and simple-minded arguments of some anti-Israeli extremists.” I know many Jews who oppose the occupation, but most are afraid to speak out. However, some do.

Earlier this year, a diverse group of Jews and other supporters of Palestinian human and national rights formed the Capital District for Justice and Peace (CDJP). We believe justice must exist before peace will take hold. More than 100 people attended a rally in Albany on June 5 calling for an end to the occupation; many of the speakers that day were (are) Jewish, as were the rally participants. On June 14, CDJP held a forum at the Albany Public Library on “What Life in Palestine Is Like.” Two of the five panelists were Jewish.

Many people are trying to move forward on this issue, but it would be helpful if the locally published Jewish World weekly newspaper (which I once worked for) acknowledged, reported, and welcomed a diversity of Jewish opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish World is similar to the Sept. 9 rally speakers: virtually no recognition of the hellish living conditions the Israelis impose on the Palestinians; and little compassion, understanding, or friendliness for the millions of Palestinians who desperately desire peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Thomas Ellis

OxyContin Nation

To the Editor:

I am writing regarding your article on OxyContin [“Warning: This Drug Can Kill You,” Sept. 19]. The article opens with the circumstances regarding the death of Jesse Gifford, and closes with comments from Mr. Gifford’s family.

While I have a great deal of empathy for Mr. Gifford’s family and their loss, I think that their blame of a drug for his death is misplaced. Mr. Gifford willingly ingested OxyContin. To argue that he was ignorant of its potential or effects does not alter the fact that the choice to take it was his and his alone.

Instead of spending more time reregulating a drug that is helping people with chronic pain—the audience for whom it was developed and for whom it’s been a blessing—why aren’t we doing more to determine what it is in today’s society that spurs people like Mr. Gifford to seek out and partake in illegal substances in the first place?

It wasn’t OxyContin that killed Mr. Gifford. It was Mr. Gifford’s experimentation with drugs that killed him. To blame the drug is to buy into the same simplistic logic that doomed Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign.

Until we take the time to critically examine what people find so lacking in their lives that they feel a need to alter their reality, we are doomed to repeat the tragedy of Mr. Gifford’s untimely end many, many more times.

Debi Orton

Green Monster

To the Editor:

Once again I must correct false accusations made by the Green party [Letters, Sept. 12]. My previous letter, the information on our Web site, and our public stances for four years make it abundantly clear that the Marijuana Reform Party (MRP) is primarily a single-issue party dedicating to ending marijuana prohibition. By claiming that we do not support the full end of marijuana prohibition, Peter LaVenia ignores reality in order to attack and slander a serious grass-roots effort to bring New York state into the national drug-reform movement. He also ignores the fact that until this year the New York Greens did not support the legalization of marijuana and had actively worked against it by trying to throw the MRP off the ballot in 1998.

This continued sniping by the Greens shows they are truly desperate for votes and fear that our party threatens their existence. Their attempt to win over our supporters by lying about our platform is very childish and naïve. In light of my past role as a key player in building the Greens into a ballot line in New York, one might think they would express gratitude for my hard work in helping make their organization a viable political party in our state. Moreover, if they had supported a legalization platform back in 1998, I would not have moved on to form the MRP.

Mr. LaVenia ignores political reality by suggesting that a party with a myriad of issues, that also happens to support the legalization of marijuana, is better suited to achieve that goal than a party that is focused exclusively on it. I respectfully disagree. It is precisely because the Greens stand for so many other issues that a vote for them is not a clear vote for ending marijuana prohibition. But a vote for the MRP is a very unambiguous expression of support for ending marijuana prohibition and other drug reform issues. Sadly, Mr. LaVenia ignores the suffering of many seriously ill New Yorkers by demeaning our present focus on medical marijuana, which is now the most pressing marijuana issue.

The villains in the drug war are the Republicans and Democrats. If the Greens were truly serious about supporting drug law reforms, they would attack the established forces that perpetuate the War on Drugs instead of demeaning the only grass-roots political effort in New York focused on ending the longest war in American history.

Tom Leighton
Marijuana Reform Party candidate for governor
New York City

Editor’s Note:

Erin Sullivan, formerly Metroland’s managing editor, now is news editor at City Paper, Baltimore’s alternative newsweekly.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
or e-mail us at

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