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The recent visit of Yasser Arafat to the Harvard campus has evoked many different reactions from members of our community. However, none have been as brash and irresponsible as the angry piece of prose doled out to Crimson readers by Justin Danilewitz and Eric Nelson ("Embracing a Murderer," signed piece, Oct. 31, 1995).
Danilewitz and Nelson recount at length Arafat's history of terrorism and berate Harvard for, in their extravagant parlance, wining and dining a monster. After much mention of blood-stained hands, blood-drenched carpets, "bloody exercises in civilian warfare" and the "bloodshed of his all-too-recent career," they declare that Harvard has unpardonably stepped over the boundary between pursuing peace with Arafat and legitimizing him.
It is clear from the context of their article that Danilewitz and Nelson are against the current Middle East peace process (which they place, perhaps derisively, in quotation marks). They castigate those of us who see promise in the peace process for our "naivete." Nevertheless, they claim that even we who support Yitzhak Rabin's peace initiative should join the authors in their condemnation of Arafat's Harvard visit.
For those who wish to contribute to the obstacles besetting the peace process, Danilewitz and Nelson's position is a suitable option. We expect the opponents of the peace process to attempt to delegitimize Arafat and prevent him from soliciting financial and political support for the development and consolidation of Palestinian democracy. If enough ill-conceived and vitriolic editorials convince enough Westerners to withhold support for Arafat, then perhaps Danilewitz and Nelson and their ill will eventually succeed in encouraging Palestinians to turn to an alternative leadership such as Hamas.
Supporters of the peace process must realize that despite our natural aversion to Arafat the man, we must accept his legitimacy as our partner in the quest for peace. Arafat is currently the only man capable of reining in the suicide bombers of Hamas. Moreover, the only way Israel will be rid of terrorism will be to raise a generation of Palestinian children who never experience occupation and intifadeh. The peace process is our only hope of raising this generations.
On that historic September day on the White House lawn, Rabin warned Jews is the Diaspora that this peace process would not be so easy. It is not for any Jew to support Yasser Arafat in any endeavor. However, Arafat needs Western money and political support in order to create a viable democracy for the Palestinians. If the duly elected government of Israel can allocate millions of dollars to Arafat for this purpose, then the least we can do at Harvard is grant him a podium from which to make his plea for help and ignore the ravings of obstructionists such as Danilewitz and Nelson. --Martin Lebwohl '96 Matthew Mayers '97
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