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If Middle East peace can be imagined, then might ...

Years back, but seemingly not so long ago, I could imagine bow the war in Vietnam would end. The eventual, inevitable tiring of U.S. will (none too soon in my opinion), the slow withdrawal of forces and the eventual unification of the country under a communist regime.

Sometime later, even as I prayed the world would avert the madness of a nuclear holocaust (I'm still praying), I could imagine the eventual economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union, concurrent with the unraveling and flight of its restless allies. Hungary in 1956, Prague in 1968, Poland in the early 1980s allowed one to predict that it was only a matter of time.

Now we are living through another tidal wave of historical change and with it the reawakening of dreams so deeply buried in our psyches we had forgotten they existed at all. Peace in the Middle East - or at least the cessation of age-old hostilities as we have come to know them for the last 45 years since the nation of Israel was carved out of rocky Palestinian soil - is a real possibility.

But unlike the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and early '70s, and unlike the era of the Soviet Union, when I could imagine resolution, I have to say I could not imagine - not really think through - the roadway to a lasting Mideast peace. The hostilities seemed too deep and too old,

But now, the hope that bad been only a prayer has the faint face of reality. To achieve lasting peace in the Middle East is a far greater task than the resolution of the Vietnam or Cold War which, at their roots, were mere extensions of the conflict between Moscow and Washington.

A Mideast peace involves not only unraveling the knotted land issues holding Israel and the Palestinians hostage, but also persuading enemies of biblical proportions to come together. And it means not only finding proportionate room for Arab and Jewish interests, but bringing reason to the minds of powerful and volatile nationalists and religious fundamentalists in such nations as Syria, Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon and, of course, Israel itself.

The task is monumental. And while the unimaginable handshake we see on this page gives life to more hope, and while a U.S. president embraces the moment for all to see, other forces have been and continue to be at work in our country that diminish my fledgling hope.

Even as the celebration took place last week at the White House, a few blocks away military hawkers were selling their latest weapons. No other world region has purchased and stock-piled so many weapons of death. Since the Iraq war, arms critics report, the U.S. alone has transferred $30 billion in arms and military technology to Mideast nations (page 5).

The United States, even now, is negotiating to sell Israel $2 billion in combat aircraft - a deal The Washington Post has called "crucial to the two U.S. defense firms competing for it." This is the highway to war, not the path to peace.

And yet, our spirits were lifted, our dreams brought to life on the White House lawn as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin clasped the hand of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

We can hope that the electrifying impact of that White House handshake might prompt other imaginations to leap to new possibilities. What hope would reverberate around the world if we could see, on the front pages of our papers, the Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders of Bosnia shake bands over a just peace; to see the head of the Irish Republican Army shake hands with the Queen of England; to see Haiti's President Aristide shake hands with Pope John Paul II; to see the warlords of Somalia shake hands with one another; to see (the least likely leap of imagination) all those leaders of smaller factions in smaller wars in less obvious trouble spots that seldom make the front pages - to see these shake hands and try talking instead of killing could galvanize the world into responding, encouraging, giving aid and, in short, creating that new world order.

Has Notre Dame's dome been tarnished? Sportswriter Malcom Moran, in The New York Times for Sept. 14, writes that it will permanently lose its luster if the university's administration does not stop stonewalling charges leveled against it recently in the book, Under the Tarnished Dome, which, quoting a number of former Notre Dame athletes, claims the price of football success has included abusive motivational techniques by coach Lou Holtz, steroid use and irregular admissions practices.

"By saying so little now, Notre Dame is running the risk of suffering a far greater image crisis than any book can create," Moran writes, asking and then answering the question: Why the stonewall? "A major part of the experience of an autumn Saturday in South Bend is the happy delusion that everything remains the way it has always been."

Has it changed? The measure of the answer probably rests with the openness with which the university's leadership responds to the charges. To the many who have a stake in Notre Dame's golden traditions, this word of advice: Stonewalling never works.
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Title Annotation:includes item about Notre Dame University football scandal
Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 24, 1993
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