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    Letters to the Editors

    Let Arab nations create a state for Palestinians

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 24, 2000


    Re: World has forgotten Palestinians, too, need a homeland.

    I could not agree more with the premise of Bill Maxwell's Oct. 15 column. The piece begins well, with an accurate review of modern Middle Eastern history, highlighting why, in fact, the Palestinians are refugees today, due to the fact that "much of Palestine was annexed . . . to form Jordan . . . and Gaza fell under Egyptian control."

    In an illogical conclusion, Maxwell takes Israel to task for not creating a Palestinian state, never holding the Arab countries of the area to the same standard. It is quite ironic indeed that tiny Israel, surrounded and outnumbered by historic enemies, should face demands to yield strategically crucial parcels of its nation when the Palestinians have been systematically ignored by their Arab brothers in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    The Palestinian diaspora is indeed tragic and their peoples' suffering is real, but let's place the blame where it belongs: with Israel's Arab neighbors who have turned their backs on their ethnic brethren.
    -- Jay H. Epstein, Pinellas Park

    Palestinians lack responsible leadership

    World has forgotten Palestinians, too, need a homeland reads the headline of the Oct. 15 column by Bill Maxwell of the Times.

    Maxwell is right, of course. But he has unfortunately left out an important consideration, and what appeared in the paper was a simplistic response to a complex question.

    One must first consider the omissions in Maxwell's recitation of historic events. First, note that the history of what is called Palestine did not begin in 1948 and 1949. Rather, it began when the Romans evicted the Jews from what was then their "homeland" a long time before.

    Second, it must be remembered that the Palestinian leadership was driven out of both Jordan and Lebanon along with many of their followers, and most others were denied entry into the neighboring Arab states. Thus was born the terrible refugee camps, and thus they were maintained.

    Having so stated, I do not believe that the "world," as Maxwell stated, "has forgotten... " Nor do I believe, based on many years of following press reports, that Israel has forgotten that the "Palestinians need a homeland." However, if I were a neighbor living as close as the Israelis, I would damn well want to be certain that their homeland was governed by responsible leadership that adhered to the rule of law and renounced violence as a tool of "statesmanship."

    Unfortunately, the Palestinian moderates must fear for their lives, while the corrupt leadership exploits the misery of the misguided population, which is inflamed by the state-controlled mass media and a clergy heavily influenced by organized terrorist groups. If I were an Israeli, Mr. Maxwell, I would be persuaded to say, "In your neighborhood, Bill, not in mine."

    I accept Maxwell's disclaimer. I do not believe that he is "anti-Israel" or "anti-Semitic" because of his support for a Palestinian homeland. Nor am I anti-Arab or anti-Islam because I would reject a neighboring state governed by terrorists led by an autocrat who maintains a system of education that teaches hate and fear to young children as a substitute for patriotism.

    I'm afraid that I have become convinced that because of the culture inherent in the Middle East, the Palestinians must be taught that violence begets violence, and that only faith, hope and love can bring the results that they want. Perhaps then they would change their leadership and recognize the need to support the moderates in their midst who could lead them to a better life.
    -- Chester Osheyack, Tampa

    The world has not forgotten

    Bill Maxwell's Oct. 15 column World has forgotten Palestinians, too, need a homeland is a most welcome and realistic analysis of the situation in the Mideast. Maxwell's report is so important in view of the one-sided comments from most other newspaper columnists, including William Safire, Thomas Friedman, Charles Krauthammer and Co.

    I haver one slight disagreement with Maxwell: It is not "the world" that has forgotten Palestinians. It is the United States and the overwhelming majority of the U.S. print media, because in Europe, for example, the comments on the conflict in and around Israel sound very much like Maxwell's.

    Let's add one or two additional remarks. The U.S. government has lost its credibility as a neutral mediator and is responsible for the current crisis. The United States is the ally of Israel. Al Gore and George W. Bush both state: "We support Israel." No doubt, the U.S. government -- and the presidential candidates -- are under pressure from the American Jewish community.

    A commentator on a European radio station said a few days ago that the United States should be replaced as a mediator. But by whom? There is nobody else. And so the tragedy and the bloodshed will go on.

    Israel is the aggressor, occupying foreign territory. Messrs. Krauthammer, Friedman and Safire can write as many columns as they want. The facts will not change. And the Palestinians have nothing to lose. But Israel has. The price of a lasting peace: Jerusalem under international control, open for everybody -- and a homeland for Palestinians without enemy control stations and "islands."
    -- Walter Schaerlig, Beverly Hills

    Other displaced people

    Re: World has forgotten Palestinians, too, need a homeland, by Bill Maxwell.

    After reading this column, it seems that the Palestinians have a lot in common with our own American Indians.
    -- George Bradshaw, St. Petersburg

    Look for the root causes

    President Clinton said, in his opening statement at the "peace summit" that the Jews and Arabs must get beyond hate and assessing blame if there is to be any hope for present and future generations. Then he said, "We must not fail" in this "peace" effort.

    Meanwhile, the FBI, military intelligence and the CIA are all on the USS Cole for the reason Secretary of Defense William Cohen stated: to find out who blew it up so they can be "held accountable." So as far as getting beyond hate is concerned, I would guess there are not many in the Navy who would agree. It's certainly clear from Cohen's words that he intends to drop some bombs on somebody.

    I don't pretend to understand the reasons for the thousands of years of fighting much less why those people would fight over each other's "holiest" and "second holiest" places. However, whatever their religious importance, none of those places seem particularly blessed. And it certainly seems to me that the belligerents on both sides are so hypocritical and hateful that they should not be surprised that they have converted their claimed holy sites into small corners of hell.

    The bombing of our warship should not have been such a surprise. As I understand it, there have been warnings for more than a year about the possibility of just such a thing happening. But that's not the real reason we shouldn't be surprised. Until we finally recognize there is a war going on and that the only Navy the other side has is a small boat with a suicide crew, these kinds of tragedies are going to occur. It's a war zone and should be treated as such.

    And, until we finally recognize that people who are poorer than we can imagine are as outraged at our demonstrated arrogance as we are with their "cowardly" attack on the symbol of our arrogance, then we are never going to see peace.

    Instead of spending billions on a ship that is so easily blown up and millions more trying to find out who did it, go over there and find the root cause of the problems. Likely it will involve food, pride and hope.
    -- Howard C. Batt, Clearwater

    We should seek revenge for "Cole'

    We must make the cowards behind the attack on the USS Cole pay a price they cannot afford. When the best of our countrymen and women are taken out at such young ages, we must seek revenge. War has been waged upon us, and I hope we do not turn the other cheek.

    A rattlesnake is difficult to negotiate with but easy to kill. The trick is to kill such snakes before they plan their suicide missions.
    -- Bob Coffey, Clearwater

    Navy could have taken precautions

    Re: Families get comfort, attackers a warning, Oct. 19.

    Navy officials have sidestepped any culpability in the deaths of 17 innocent young sailors by stating dogmatically and positively that there was nothing they could have done to foresee and prevent the tragedy. They are dead wrong.

    Learning from the tragic errors of the past, such as the sad deaths of more than 240 Marines in one building in Lebanon, the armed forces have instituted buffer zones to prevent suicide bombers from reaching their targets. The USS Cole, regardless of being on water, was obviously deserving of the same type of buffer zone, albeit of a different nature. No small vessel, regardless of its seemingly innocent appearance, should have been allowed to approach within 50 or 100 yards without positively identifying itself and its right to approach the USS Cole. Whether done by radio or otherwise, but especially by use of a foolproof code, this positive identification would have preserved the 17 incalculably precious young lives.

    Should we expect any less of those responsible?
    Leonard A. Peterson, New Port Richey

    A flawed refueling method

    Re: The USS Cole.

    I'm certainly no military expert, but why were we refueling the USS Cole in an area that could be labeled "unfriendly"? This ship was a sitting duck! Isn't there refueling at sea by our own tanker ships?
    -- Dorothy E. Karkheck, Palm Harbor

    Peace rally deserved more coverage

    I continue to read about the press' unbalanced reporting of the past month's events in Israel. I didn't expect the reporting to affect our local communities.

    Specifically, a rally in favor of peace in Israel was held Oct. 18 at Congregation B'Nai Israel in Clearwater. The Oct. 19 edition of the newspaper contained a large photo on page 3B of students holding "Peace" and "Peace for Israel" signs. Other than the caption for the photo, not one word was written about the rally for peace. There was not one mention of the prevailing pro-peace attitude among those in attendance. Not one word about how various speakers dispelled the myths that Israel "started" or "encouraged" the various uprisings. Not one word of what steps those in attendance could take to help. Not a word was written that the sanctuary was "standing room only" and that more than 1,100 adults and children attended.

    Please, I beg you, don't further contribute to the lopsided information regarding the situation in Israel. We need to promote the idea that a peaceful resolution can be found. The extremists on both sides cannot be allowed to dictate the terms and conditions of a peace accord.

    We need your help and the help of all responsible media in stopping the bloodshed.
    -- Bruce Hadburg, Palm Harbor

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