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    Letters to the Editors

    Palestinians' plight is self-created

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 10, 2001


    Re: Fighting over the holy land: a place vs. people without a place, by Bill Maxwell, June 3.

    Maxwell talks about the fact that Jewish Israelis have a country and Palestinians do not. His words are meant to create sympathy, not deal objectively with the facts. When Israel was formed in 1948 by an act of the United Nations, an Arab state was also approved for Palestine. However, the Arab countries chose to wage war against the fledgling Jewish state rather than live peacefully with their new neighbor. One of the outcomes of the Arab aggression was the loss of the land designated for the Palestinians by the United Nations. Palestinians lost more land in the Six Day War, another in which Arabs were the aggressors. Israel still has this land because Arabs/Palestinians cannot give adequate assurances of peace in the event the land is returned.

    The Arab countries continue to use the Palestinians as pawns in their continuing conflict with the Jews in the Middle East. In an article published in this newspaper some years ago, columnist George Will stated that the Palestinians were an Arab problem before they were an Israeli problem. Palestinians share the same religion, culture and language as many of their Arab neighbors, who control land many times the size of Israel. Those Arab countries could easily absorb the Palestinians but choose not to. Maxwell speaks of Palestinians being dispossessed, but it is primarily by other Arabs -- not by Jewish Israelis.

    Instead of the Arab nations taking any responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians, the focus is on the very small patches of land held by the very small country of Israel, held as a direct result of Arab aggression.

    Instead of trying to increase understanding of the issues underlying the conflict between Jew and Palestinian and Jew and Arab, Maxwell reduces the matter to an emotional plea: The Palestinians don't have a country, Jews do, and that's not fair.

    Palestinians and neighboring Arabs must take responsibility for the current state of affairs. Israel is far from perfect and has not always acted in its own best interests, but Israel is not the one who has, by and large, initiated the many military or terrorist acts that have occurred over the years. Let's examine why there was conflict initially and try to deal with that.

    My personal opinion is that the Arab countries will not be accepting of a Jewish state in the area in my lifetime or my children's lifetimes. I sincerely hope that I am wrong.
    -- Steve R. Gagne, Odessa

    The peaceful Diaspora

    Re: Fighting over the holy land: a place vs. people without a place.

    Shortly after Bill Maxwell admonishes his readers against "bleating about who was in the region first," he informs the supporters of Israel that there will be no peace until there is "parallelism" for the diasporas.

    Maxwell should not presume to preach to me, the Western Jew, about the do's and don'ts of a diaspora. Through Crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and holocausts, my people have maintained peaceful efforts to remain connected to each other through our dream to return to our homeland. Yes, the key word is peaceful.

    At no time did we teach our children to hate and slaughter the Romans, British, Russians, Spaniards or Germans beyond self-defense and self-preservation. Even in the ghettoes of Warsaw, we continued to teach our children the loving lessons of the Talmud and prepared them for the promise of a bright future should they be granted survival.

    Jews in the Diaspora saved pennies and nickels in little blue boxes so they could legally purchase the land they sought to live on. Yes, after the Holocaust, the Jews fought the British to establish a homeland that was promised to them in the Balfour agreement. But they fought only because the British refused to honor the agreement peacefully. And as Maxwell so nicely pointed out, Israel is a thriving and viable nation just 53 years later.

    In fact, the deal offered to the Jews 53 years ago by the United Nations was terrible, but the Jews wanted a homeland and they took what they could get. They were offered a sliver of land, surrounded by hostile neighbors, and they took it, it was better than nothing. They took it and they nurtured it. They educated their children and harbored their refugees.

    Israel stands alone in the world. There are dozens of oil-rich Arab nations that would rush to arm and finance any country attempting to oppose Israel, yet none that would attempt to feed, house or educate Palestinian children. It wouldn't be in the best interest of their ultimate goal: the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

    If the Palestinians wanted a home, they could have one today. They were offered one in 1948 and they were offered a home by Ehud Barak. I feel that I can speak on behalf of the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora: If the Palestinians want an honest peace in a real homeland, call Yasser Arafat, tell him he can probably still get a good deal. Somehow, I don't think he'll take it.
    -- Lisa Smajovits, Largo

    Remember the real goal

    There is no question as to the organized society and state of Israel viv a vis the Palestinian entity. Bill Maxwell's solution is the creation of a Palestinian state with full powers and privileges of any other nation. He states, "A New Palestine could become one of Israel's major trading partners."

    The Palestinians had that opportunity when Ehud Barak offered them everything they wanted except the right of return, which would have destroyed the Jewish state. His naive assertion totally excludes the very real goal, which is the destruction of the Israeli state. That is the reality.

    If Maxwell thinks that the mere existence of a Palestinian state is the sole objective of the Palestinian Authority, he neglects to take into account the terrorist organizations that will continue to harass and murder innocent Israeli citizens. Their goal is not only a New Palestine but also control and destruction of the Israeli state.
    -- Sy Ginsburg, Hudson

    Peace requires justice

    Peace will not come until a state of Palestine is established, guaranteeing Palestinians human and national rights. The "peace process" failed because it did not deliver the "parallelism" required for peace (Bill Maxwell's June 3 column). The peace process was extremely advantageous to Israel and disadvantageous to the Palestinians. Israel gained security, Arab recognition, Arab markets, Arab acceptance, consolidation and control in East Jerusalem, and expansion of its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (against international law).

    The Palestinians, on the other hand, did not get security, recognition of their human or national rights and acceptance of Palestine as their state with rights to East Jerusalem as their capital. Israel's expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza (145 total), has led to an apartheid-style cantonization of the occupied territories. In addition, Israel has imposed restrictions on movement of goods and people between the territories. The result has been further economic deterioration and impoverishment of the Palestinians. Is this a fair and just peace?
    -- The burden for transforming the situation rests with Israel.
    Most columnists, like Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Friedman, blame Arafat and the Palestinians for the recent violence. Arafat begged Ehud Barak not to allow Ariel Sharon's visit to the Sacred Dome of the Rock Mosque in September. He knew it would be a major provocation and lead to violence. The Israelis countered Palestinian protests with incursions and attacks by tanks, helicopter gun ships, American-made F-16 jets and bulldozers. Palestinian civilians have been killed and wounded by the hundreds. When they attempt to defend themselves, they are blamed for the violence.
    Palestinians are willing to die for their freedom and rights in the spirit of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!"
    Are the Israelis ready to recognize Palestinian independence and control in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza? Are they ready to recognize the Palestinians' right of return or compensation for damages and losses? These are their rights by international law and justice, just as European countries have compensated Jews for the Holocaust. There can be no peace without fairness and justice.
    Pilar Saad, Tampa

    Required reading

    I very rarely agree with Bill Maxwell's columns. But his June 3 effort receives my complete agreement with his analysis of the Israel/Palestinian problem. None of the other columns I've ever seen dealing with this subject have ever been so fair, accurate and, most important, unbiased as Maxwell's!

    The conclusion is one that all unbiased Americans should take to heart: "The burden of transforming life in this enduring hot spot rests with Israel."

    Maxwell's column should be required reading by all citizens and especially by our politicians in Washington.
    -- Donald G. Peck, Spring Hill

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