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Letters to the Editor.

Both Sides Are Besieged

Although Hanan Ashrawi ("Shame on You, Madeleine Albright," December issue) is one of the most significant and respectable politicians of this century, her version of the events in the Middle East is almost farcical. She paints an image of masses of Palestinian children sitting quietly as the evil Israelis fire anti-tank missiles down upon them. Nablus is no Soweto, and the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is no Tiananmen Square.

Ashrawi mocks Madeleine Albright's use of the phrase "under siege," yet the facts seem to support that claim. It was Ehud Olmert, the mayor of Jerusalem, not the mayor of Gaza City or Ramallah, who was forced to dodge a hail of bullets on his most recent trip to Gilo. The more than 200 places of worship that have been desecrated recently were synagogues, not mosques (this is the most attacks since Kristallnacht). It was Palestinian snipers, not Israelis, who fired upon the convoy of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson as it passed through Hebron.

I'm not trying to prove that it is Israel, rather than Palestine, that is truly the victim. Instead, I am simply noting that both sides are besieged. Both sides have committed wrongs, and both sides have suffered greatly. For The Progressive to publish such a blatantly biased and misleading account is further evidence that even progressive mediums have given up journalistic integrity in this conflict.

Jonathan Grinspan Ardmore, Pennsylvania

When racism, hate, fear, and violence run deep on both sides, how can anyone say everything is the other side's fault? And it seems strange to be anti-anything when both sides have legitimate causes and both need to have an established country.

No one ever calls for the dissolution of America when discussing our army's acts of terrorism, and nobody ever discusses giving all of America back to the native peoples. Why is there a double standard?

Michael Levine San Francisco, California

No Dove

In her essay "An Israeli Dove Mourns" (December issue), Eetta Prince-Gibson says several times that she feels confused. Unfortunately, this is more true than she knows. Many, many people, including well-intentioned ones like Prince-Gibson, in both Israel and America, in both the mainstream and on the left, seem to share this confusion. The problem is that the state of Israel has been normalized in our minds.

Prince-Gibson writes of an Israeli "War of Independence." There was no such war. There was a Zionist War of Conquest in 1948--the conquest of 78 percent of Palestine. Certainly, Jews had the right to settle in their ancestral homeland, but this did not give them the right to steal land from the people already living there and drive them out.

Prince-Gibson speaks of Barak's "decent offer." She doesn't specify what she means by this, but I don't think Barak has ever made a decent offer.

I would say the most generous concession in this whole conflict--the one nobody talks about--is the concession the majority of Palestinians made when they agreed to recognize the right of Israel to exist and to settle for only 22 percent of their original homeland. The only possible move the Israeli government could make of the same order would be to immediately withdraw from what is left of Palestine and pay generous reparations to those Palestinians dispossessed in 1948, in the 1967 conquest of the rest of Palestine, and in the ongoing occupation.

Then there is the matter of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Prince-Gibson seems to think that Arafat still represents the wishes of the majority of Palestinians and that he is still in control of the situation. This is frankly rather racist. Arafat may once have been a legitimate representative of the views of most Palestinians, but this is certainly not true anymore. For too long, he has made concession after concession to Israel and secured only a few crumbs in return; for too long, he has played policeman for Israel, repressing his own people. To assume that the majority of Palestinians will listen to him after this is to assume that they are incapable of independent thought.

But Arafat's colonial dictatorship has also been normalized, so he is seen as a free agent, negotiating with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. And now that he has finally shown some backbone, he is treated as though he is being unreasonable and unjust.

I am an anarchist and a pacifist, and I support neither nationalism nor violence, but we have to recognize that in this case, Israelis have been far, far more nationalistic and violent than the Palestinians. Until this is recognized, until Americans and Israelis cease to normalize the Israeli state and come to recognize it for the conquering, racist power that it is, there can be no meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East.

Perhaps in a few generations, after Palestinians receive reparations and have been able to rebuild what is left of their country, when Jews and Arabs can sit down at a table together as true equals, the process of reconciliation can begin.

Matthew Williams Somerville, Massachusetts

Prince-Gibson hardly qualifies as a dove. If she were a dove, she would remember that the Stern Gang and the Irgun created Israel by ethnically cleansing the indigenous population from a part of Palestine.

If she were, she would know that Palestine, which she calls "the historic land of Israel," belongs to "the Jewish people" only if one accepts the fable that God gave it to the matrilineal descendants of Sarah and Abraham. If she were, she would be grateful that the Palestinians have already generously conceded the boundaries proposed in 1947 to the Israeli interlopers. If she were, she would not consider Barak's proposed final solution--barren and isolated Bantustans without the normal rights of a sovereign power--a "generous" offer.

The political spectrum in Israel is so blindly ethnocentric that a fair partition, reparations, a Palestinian Jerusalem, the return of the refugees, and a fair division of water are impossible. It seems inevitable that "peace" will come only when Israel drives the rest of the Palestinians out of Palestine. It is tragic that any Americans would support that, but most probably will.

Art Hilgart Kalamazoo, Michigan

A Stand of Fairness

This is in response to Matthew Rothschild's Editor's Note "Anguish and Protest" (December issue).

I could feel your frustration, your anguish, and your hurt--especially when your fellow Jewish people criticized your protest. I also admire your stand of fairness about the trauma the Palestinians have been forced to endure. In reality, both sides are so "injured" about who did what and when that they cannot put themselves (or so it seems) in the place of their brothers and sisters on the opposing side.

What is so sad to me is when those who have been oppressed now become the oppressors, and the blindness by which many of them cannot see themselves as the oppressors.

The Reverend Paul R. Frerking Meridian, Texas

Being completely disappointed in the human race and, consequently, expecting a sad future for our world, some time ago I began to cancel my subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.

I was ready to discontinue my subscription to The Progressive, but after I read your Editor's Note from the December issue, I changed my mind.

I congratulate you on your honesty and courage. If there is one publication in the United States worth reading, it is The Progressive.

I've decided that reading your magazine gives me a small amount of hope at learning that there are still human beings who continue to believe in moral principles.

Rene Espinosa Sr. Falls Church, Virginia

The editors welcome correspondence from readers on all topics, but prefer to publish letters that comment directly on material previously published in The Progressive. All letters may be edited for clarity and conciseness. Letters may be e-mailed to: Please include your city and state.
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Publication:The Progressive
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Previous Article:No Apologies.
Next Article:Reasons for Hope.

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