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    Letters to the Editors

    Arabs still haven't accepted Israel

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 1, 2001


    Re: Israeli settlements: outposts of lunacy, June 24.

    Two years ago -- when Bill Maxwell formed his impressions of "occupation" and "settlers" in Israel -- there were others who agreed that Jewish settlements in 1.5 percent of the territories were an obstacle to peace in the area. Since January, few can believe that. Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to return 95 percent of the territories and offered compensation for the remaining 5 percent. That offer was not met by a counteroffer -- it was met by a policy of terrorism, suicide bombing and mobilization of children to stand in front of bullets and rockets.

    The problem is exactly what it has been for 50 years: The Arab world refuses to accept the presence of a non-Arab state on a tiny sliver of land in the midst of the 20 Arab nations created in the aftermath of World War II. I say non-Arab, because it has become increasingly evident that it is not just a Jewish state that they find offensive and threatening; it is a Western state, which exemplifies values like democratic elections, a free press and free speech for all, including those like Hirsh Goodman, quoted approvingly by Maxwell, who are free to disagree openly with Israeli government policy.

    Until the Arab governments and their leaders accept that Israel is a permanent fact of life -- and until they make that clear to their populations -- their remonstrances regarding "settlements," "Jerusalem," "refugees," should be seen as nothing more than rhetoric designed to delegitimize that lonely outpost of Western values in the Mideast. If there is "lunacy" anywhere, it is surely in their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Israel and try to improve the lot of their downtrodden peoples by working toward a common future for all.
    -- Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg

    Balance is missing

    Re: Israeli settlements: outposts of lunacy.

    Bill Maxwell's analyses of the Middle East would have more credibility if he would demonstrate some balance. All too often, he appears to be an apologist for the Palestinians.

    Maxwell's harsh description of Israeli settlements overlooks some pertinent facts. He overlooks completely the Israeli positions cited in the Mitchell Report, which complained of the following: "Institutional anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish incitement; the release from detention of terrorists; the failure to control illegal weapons; and the actual conduct of violent operations... "

    It is a fact that 90 percent of the Israeli settlers live in what are in effect suburbs of the major Israeli cities such as Jerusalem. These areas are essential for Israel's security.

    To bar Jews from living in the West Bank, the cradle of Jewish civilization, is outrageous. Carried to the extreme, Israel would expel all its Arab citizens who make up some 18 percent of its population.

    Maxwell should note that Israel has offered to make significant concessions with respect to the settlements in the context of an overall agreement. Of course, we must not condone a Balkan type of ethnic cleansing.

    Finally, Maxwell's one-dimensional analysis reduces his credibility and forces us to question his agenda.
    -- Norman N. Gross, president, Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting; chairperson, Anti-Hate Committee, Greater Florida B'nai B'rith, Palm Harbor

    A fatal flaw

    Re: Israeli settlements: outposts of national lunacy, June 24.

    Bill Maxwell's column opens with a description of Nazareth as "a northern city in the West Bank." In fact, since the very first day of Israel's establishment, Nazareth has been internationally recognized as part of Israel. Nazareth is within Israel's 1948 borders and can in no way be considered under "occupation" or part of the West Bank.

    Maxwell's error is particularly ironic, given his declared insider knowledge: "I came to understand the real meaning of the terms 'occupation' and 'settlers' in the Israeli and Palestinian conflict two years ago as I looked out the window of my room at the Marriott Hotel in Nazareth, a northern city in the West Bank."

    Such a basic error raises serious questions about Maxwell's qualifications to write about the region, considering that he evidently does not even know the difference between a West Bank settlement and an Israeli city. Moreover, the fact that his fundamental factual premise is false -- that Nazareth is a settlement -- undermines the validity of his entire column.
    -- Tamar Sternthal, senior research analyst, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Boston

    Settlements bring misery

    Re: Israeli settlements: outposts of national lunacy.

    The American Muslim Society of the Tristate area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware would like to thank you for this article.

    As you have pointed out, the majority of American Jewry does not understand the lunacy of the Israeli policy of continued settlement creation. This, of course, comes at the expense of lost Palestinian homes and lands owned by them for generations. It is a source of destruction of lives of countless families.

    Please continue further exploration of this theme in your future articles. Americans need to understand that blind support of Israeli expansion policies, to the tune of $3-billion a year in U.S. taxpayer money, will only continue the misery of both Palestinians and Israelis and serve to continue undermining the genuine interest of America in the Middle East.
    -- Iftekhar Hussain, secretary general, American Muslim Society, Malvern, Pa.

    A unified state needed

    Bill Maxwell misses the point that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have a historical and cultural value to Jews, just as Israel proper has to Palestinians. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever be satisfied with partial, disconnected territories that are not even economically viable or militarily defensible. Jews want to live in Hebron, and Palestinian Arabs want to live in Tel Aviv.

    The only long-term solution that will satisfy both sides is for there to be one unified state, in which both Arabs and Jews can live anywhere they wish. The ultimate occupied territory, Jerusalem's Old City, contains Judaism's highest holy places. Arabs denied Jews access to those places during their pre-1967 rule. Like the land in general, the holy places sacred to more than one religion should be shared, not partitioned. Unification would not be easy to arrange, but separation on unsatisfactory terms is doomed from the start.
    -- G. Ethan Jordan, Tampa

    A necessary expose

    Re: A taste of slavery, June 24.

    The Times should be applauded for publishing the expose of the chocolate industry's support of slave labor and the oppression of children. The American public needs to be constantly made aware of the consequences of unfettered capitalism. In these times since the triumph of laissez-faire international corporatism, slavery and oppression are too often rationalized on economic grounds and tolerated by corporate interests. In addition to the chocolate industry, witness the near slave conditions of workers in Haiti and other parts of Latin America who are oppressed by Disney and Nike, among others.

    This list of corporate misconduct -- even crimes -- is, sadly, quite long. The fact that there is no readily enforceable law that holds U.S. companies responsible for either directly or indirectly supporting slavery makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and demonstrates a remarkable lack of values and will on the part of political leaders. And the fact that executives of Disney, Nike and Hershey can be considered pillars of American society when their "success" is due, in part, to child labor and sweatshops is a constant reminder of how far American culture is from freedom and equality, the central values of American democracy.

    Only by being constantly confronted with the evils of economic exploitation, may the American public come to take a stand against oppression and be moved toward freedom and equality for all.
    -- Michael C. Milam, Tampa

    Illuminating lives

    My thanks to Thomas French for his June 17-19 piece titled The Saboteur and His Son. Beyond its literary value, this piece is a demonstration of the work of psychoanalysis -- an exploration of how digging below the surface can illuminate so much of our lives.

    As a psychoanalyst and as someone who knows of Thomas Morton French, the author's grandfather, I was fascinated to read about him from his grandson's point of view and to understand how his role as a father influenced his son and grandson.

    Thank you for this piece of history and for demonstrating the ways psychoanalysis can help illuminate one's present.
    -- Arnold Schneider, Ph.D., diplomate in psychoanalysis, American Board of Professional Psychology, Clearwater

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