Hillel Discussion of Mideast Simply Apologized for Israel
TO THE EDITORS
Re: "Profs. Discuss Mideast," (news story, March 20): No fair-minded person would call the event with Messrs. Dershowitz and Peretz, as The Crimson does, a debate. Both speakers are well-known apologists for Israel. While terrorism is vile, and must be condemned by all, the two speakers seem to hold the view that terrorism is innate to Palestinian character or society. Prof. Dershowitz links "the legitimization of terrorism" to the "legitimization of the legitimization of the PLO by the world community." The implication is that the PLO, and by extension, we presume, Palestinians, are the barbarians at the gate, to be held back, as in the past, through force. To turn a blind eye, however, to the misery that the state of Israel has inflicted, and has continued to inflict, on the Palestinian population is to ignore the real cause of terrorism.
For the Palestinian residents of the camps, "hope had grown gray hairs": hope that they will one day live dignified lives; hope that their children will play and not come home smelling of sewage. It is morally reprehensible to turn a blind eye to this suffering and despair. It is also foolish. These children are the very ones who turn themselves into the human bombs: They have nothing to live for, and there are plenty of zealots who convince them that there is everything to die for. It is not Islam that preaches that message; it is the dehumanizing misery that causes this misguided interpretation of its tenets.
Now it seems that the two speakers believe that Arafat's greatest failing is that he did not crush his Islamic opposition. As a secular Palestinian, however, I believe that Arafat's greatest achievement to date has been his ability to contain the radical elements of Hamas--until Israel foolishly decided to assassinate one of its leaders for past crimes during a stable cease-fire. The greatest evil that this nascent state can face is civil war--calamitous as that may be--that constitutes the gravest danger. The manner in which Arafat deals with his Islamic opposition, indeed all opposition, will crucially determine the future power of the executive in Palestine, and, hence, the nature of its civil society and its government. As an Arab, I am greatly ashamed by the fact that Arab regimes from the Gulf to the Ocean are among the most repressive and the least democratic the world over. The specter of another dictatorship imposed on a people that suffered the iniquity of occupation and exile should be resisted at all costs. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with the two speakers' unstated belief that Israel's momentary security should outweigh Palestinians' external degradation. --Ala M. Alryyes, graduate student, Dept. of Comparative Literature