To the Editors of The Crimson:
Now that the Israeli election has been held and local voters have returned our staunchly pro-Israel delegation to Congress, it should be obvious just how insignificant Tuesday's vote on Question 5 is from the standpoint of what will actually happen between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future.
Still, Question 5 is not completely insignificant because it has focused debate on a number of crucial aspects of the Israeli occupation and the stalled peace process. How much is Israel at fault? Should we lean on the Arab countries and the PLO to be forthcoming first? Which side is responsible for continued violations against innocent civilians? How should the United States promote a solution to the war--by sanctions or through hard diplomatic maneuvering and coaxing?
Sadly, most of the organizations which took charge of the debate focused on the referendum itself and the number of people who would vote yes or no. So if the posters and pamphlets are correct, we know that it was appropriate to Vote Yes for Middle East Peace or Vote No for a Lasting Peace. As well, the Coalition for Palestinian Rights on the one hand and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting on the other have contributed mainly rhetoric about the "true intentions" of the other side--revealing more than anything their own true intentions and hatreds.
Which is not to say that there is no basis for hatred; Israelis and Palestinians have certainly killed and humiliated enough of each other and made it difficult for either one to continue (or start) building a thriving, rich society. There isn't one thing that has been written in all the letters to the Crimson not motivated by passionate commitment and deep experience.
Let's level with one another. The result of the Question 5 referendum won't in the least affect our congressional delegation, nor will it influence the Israeli coalition negotiations or the plans of the PLO this month. What might happen now that the referendum is in the past is that each "side" will shift its focus to the results and interpret them as vindication, and then everyone will go back to not thinking about the issue very intensely and not doing anything constructive.
What should happen is that these last of couple months be seized as a basis for coping with the events that will probably ensue rapidly. How could we do that? First of all, by continuing internal debate within the Jewish and Arab communities. Second, by continued discussion--exchanges of opinions through letters, yes, but better yet through personal contact, and even better yet everyone should take a break from opinion-ramming and just concentrate closely on what actually happens during the coming weeks. We probably cannot have any effect from here, but between us we can understand it better than if we try to force it into our preconceived frameworks.
At times I have had great respect for the Jews and Arabs I've met during the last two months who have worked on and talked about Question 5, regardless of their opinion, right or left. We already do care; it's our peoples who are involved, and not just abstract principles applied as easily to Africa or Central America. At times all I've been is frustrated. I know we can put our passion to better use. It's not hard. Jonathan Savett '89-90
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