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Letters to the editor 4/19

April 19, 2002

Arabs must accept peace


To the editor:

How can one's heart not ache every time one hears news of the unfolding tragedy in the Holy Land. I mourn daily the lives cut short... Israeli and Palestinian lives.

And what adds to the sorrow and the pity is that all of this was avoidable. If only the Arabs had learned how to pronounce the word spelled Y-E-S.

If only they had said yes in 1947, when the United Nations decided to partition the Holy Land (what was left of it after the 1922 partition that created Jordan) into a Jewish half and an Arab half. Had the Arabs said "yes" in 1947, today they would be celebrating, along with Israel, their 54th year of independant statehood. Sadly, they said "no." Sadly, the Arabs wondered why share the land when they can have it all. Rather than compromise, the surrounding Arab nations and the Palestinian people launched a war whose sole objective was to "push the Jews into the sea."

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If only they had said yes in 1967. The Arab nations, again confident of their ability to kill all the Jews and lay claim to all the land, launched another war. Much to the amazement of all - Arabs, Israelis and the world - Israel was not destroyed. In a mere six days, Israel had not only saved itself from destruction, but now controlled the West Bank and Gaza, formerly illegally occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively (as a result of their military gains of the 1948 war). Israel offered those territories in exchange for peace. Yassir Arafat famously answered not with yes, but with three no's: No peace, No negotiation, No recognition of Israel's right to exist.

And now. In the summer of 2000, Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, offered Yassir Arafat a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, and even control of parts of Jerusalem. This time Arafat didn't even bother to say no. Rather, he launched the current intifada.

Hundreds of lives lost. Many more hundreds injured, maimed for life. Thousands of children on both sides traumatized. Millions of dollars of property destroyed. An economy depressed. For what? We don't even know. We can only imagine that Arafat never really had a change of heart, after all. The Palestinian leadership was not really prepared to accept a partition of the Holy Land into a Jewish and an Arab state. The only reason I can imagine for rejecting Barak's offer and instigating this devastating and painful war is that Arafat and apparently a majority of his people still cling to the notion that the Arab world can yet be united to attack and destroy Israel, so the Palestinians can have it all to themselves. And for this, Arafat is willing to risk the lives of the people he is supposed to lead.

My heart mourns daily for the devastation.

Charley Reese continually writes Israel-bashing columns. Again and again he laments that the Presidents of our country and its elected officials bow to the "mighty Israel lobby." Posh! Our elected officials do not support Israel because of some powerful and mysterious lobby. They support Israel because: 1) it is the moral and right thing to do (versus a massacre of all the Jews of Israel). 2) It is in America's interest, for a multiplicity of reasons.

Sadly, on Sept. 11 we witnessed what happens when terror is not fought, when bullies are left to do their bullying. America's fight against the forces of evil and terror are identical with Israel's fight. If the Palestinians want a state, let them come and get one at the negotiating table, not by blowing up families at the neighborhood grocery store.

I pray that the Palestinians will soon learn to say Y-E-S. Yes to peace. Yes to a future with hope and happiness. Yes to co-existence alongside a peaceful, democratic Israel. As our Bible says, "I have set before thee this day life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life." May they soon say yes, and choose life.

Rabbi Janice Garfunkel

B'nai Abraham

Hagerstown

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