I find the guest columns in this paper can be quite amusing from time to time. Take the recent one from a board member of Catholic Charities that highlighted the fact that it uses no state funds to support its mission of helping refugees (“Dispel misconceptions about Catholic Charities’ refugee programs,” June 4).

The column then went on to explain that the agency receives federal grants. Does anyone know where the federal government gets its money from? The answer is, it comes from the same place as the state of Maine’s, and that’s from me and you. Not mentioned was the cost of interpreters needed by the Portland Police Department or schools in Portland.

Even though I am a first-generation American, as my parents came from Finland, I fully understand that English must become their first language. I know several immigrants who came from various countries and they all tell me the same thing.

Then there was the column from an educator with a doctorate who stated if a student doesn’t perform well, it’s the student’s fault (Educational reform should be focused on students, not teachers,” June 5).

I couldn’t disagree more. As a child I hated math until I had a teacher in eighth grade who made math not only interesting but fun, even though my parents weren’t that interested if I had homework or not.

In the end, it’s a combination of the teachers, parents and students that make a student who is capable of doing well, because not all students are created equal and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.

As far as tax breaks for parents whose children perform well, why not tax breaks for parents whose children drop out of school, as those students have no cost to local school units?

Lane Hiltunen

Windham 

Views differ over way Israel responded to flotilla 

I want to first state that I accept Israel’s right to existence, and that like any country its citizens have a natural right to protect themselves. Furthermore, I acknowledge that there might be more than a hint of hypocrisy from many who criticize them and who then fail to properly criticize their own actions.

Having said that, I would like to join the majority of world nations in condemning how Israel handled the situation with the flotilla. Yes, it is unfair that other Middle Eastern countries often overlook the plight of the people of Darfur, or the Kurds, but that still doesn’t excuse Israel when it commits an injustice.

Even if they were right in stopping the flotilla, they could have waited until it was no longer in international waters, so that the IDF did not look like pirates. They can’t say they had no choice in how they acted.

And no matter how many innocent Israelis are killed in attacks, it does not justify the avoidable deaths of any non-Israelis.

I could understand Israel responding to the rocket attacks from Gaza last year, but when the Palestinian civilian casualties outnumber the Israeli civilian casualties 100-1, it still looks pretty bad.

For the sake of the Palestinians, it would be wise for the solidarity movement to think about what they could do differently in the future, and not let Israel’s atrocities distract them from their own faults.

However, Israel needs to do the same, and not use unjust acts against themselves as a smokescreen. When it comes to fighting for one’s nation, we all must learn the subtle difference between “by any means necessary” and “by all means available.”

Paul Parsons

Portland 

While our nation is losing its position as the world leader in many things, from finance to diplomacy, we seem to remain No. 1 when it comes to hyperbole, hypocrisy and hysterics.

The outrage and moral posturing over Israel’s response to attempts to break its defensive blocade is erupting in many corners, from classic anti-Semites to smug letter-writers and op-ed columnists.

Israel has offered to off-load and deliver all non-military aid from the latest ship making its way from Ireland. The offer was refused. Is the refusal based upon the fact that there may be military-related material aboard? Or, more likely, because Israel’s generous offer would spoil the real intent: to make Israel look bad.

The death of nine people on an earlier boat certainly is sad and, if proven unjustified, open to condemnation. But where is the similar outrage over the killings of hundreds of innocent civilians by U.S. and U.N. forces in Afghanistan?

If innocents in Gaza are proven to be hungry and ill-housed as a singular result of Israel’s action, and not partly as a PR move by Hamas, we certainly should care.

But where then are our tears and outrage over the millions of poor, hungry and homeless people, many of them children, right here in America?

As an American Jew and widower of an Auschwitz survivor, I stand firmly beside Israel. While I am ready to be critical in a rational manner, I will never forget 5,000 years of slaughter, humiliation and repeated attempts to destroy my people. If the Israels seem tough and self-defensive, they are, in large part, what the world has made them. And me.

Norman Abelson

Moody 

Nemitz’s work embodies good writing, journalism 

While Bill Nemitz, both journalistically and emotionally, was navigating the Press Herald’s historic move to its new location (front page, May 24), he managed to accomplish something else. He spent several hours with hundreds of high school and college students and faculty members at the three-day Maine Model United Nations Conference (MeMUNC) at the University of Southern Maine, Gorham (column, May 23, “Teens model engagement in the world”).

I had the privilege of observing Bill interviewing conference members. With warmth, attentiveness, and at times a twinkle in his eye, the veteran journalist put students at ease and elicited candid responses. A column of remarkable vitality resulted.

In focusing on the 14 bleary-eyed Security Council delegates who had at 2 a.m. been struggling to resolve a sudden international crisis, Nemitz managed to capture the challenge and excitement of MeMUNC. During daylight hours, 366 other student delegates deliberated complex topics in different U.N. groups such as the Model U.N.’s General Assembly.

Nemitz’ column acknowledged months of conference preparation by high school students, their back-home teachers, and Dr. Lynn Kuzma’s college student staff.

As his employer was moving to its new location, Nemitz gave us a glimpse of serious students moving deeper into a sense of global citizenship. As he is on assignment for Afghanistan, a multitude of readers, including many 2010 Model U.N. participants, will, I trust, be with him in spirit.

Al Niese

Member, Maine U.N. Association

Woolwich