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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Having just returned from Ramallah and talking to Palestinians there, it is clear to me that if anything positive is to come out of this tragedy it is that Palestinian factionalism must end. The Christian Science Monitor today reported a letter signed to Mahmoud Abbas by frustrated Fatah activists arguing that "we were used to the situation in which Fatah was the leader in any confrontation against the occupation, and for the first time, we find ourselves outside the standoff. This is going to cost us dearly, especially when it comes to public support, and it is going to harm our credibility in the eyes of the people."

There is only one way out for Palestinians, and that is for a Palestinian unity government, whether Washington or Tel Aviv likes it. My sense from talking to people is that they are fed up with Palestinian infighting. If Abbas thinks he can do what America will demand and go back to Gaza "on an Israeli tank," as they put it in Ramallah, he will be committing "political suicide," as one Fatah activist pointed out.

Fatah and Hamas will have to work out their differences and somehow get beyond the fact that they have crossed way too many red lines with each other to the detriment of their own people and the justice of their cause.

Abbas without his own people is an empty shell of a leader who will not be able to make any peace with Israel. He must make the choice of not being Hosni Mubarak in Ramallah and listen to his own people, for it is only in and through their will that he can hope to continue as president of the Palestinian Authority.

Deborah A. Gordon

Wichita, KS

Jan 15 2009 - 2:55pm

Web Letter

I realize that there are many individuals in the human race who cannot deal with moral ambiguities. Naomi Klein, a radical chic Jewish Canadian version of Princess Di married to the equivalent of the rabbi's son, is obviously one of them. The editors appear to be suffering from similar problems.

If 600 (now 800?) dead borders on the catastrophic, what does over 1 million dead in Iraq (source: Lancet) or a huge but unknown number (70,000 in seven months just from disease and malnutrition--WHO ) in Darfur constitute? Tens of thousands in Afghanistan? Does anyone honestly wish to suggest that I will find more condemnations of Great Britain and the United States than of Israel? Of Sudan or its backer, China, than of Israel? Of the "coalition of the willing" than of Israel? Whatever this may be, one thing it is not is a simple question of getting both sides to sit down and talk to each other. That's already been tried. The fact that so many of you have an emotional stake in this is also regrettable, but irrelevant.

Of course, moral absolutism is much easier to hold, and much more satisfying to espouse. It gives us that warm feeling of being holier than thou, without having to wrap our minds around a problem. We can ignore inconvenient facts, make misleading characterizations, or engage in out-and-out lying, because the end is already known, and that justifies the means. We can also ignore the flying pigs when we suggest solutions.

In the present circumstances, since pork is neither kosher nor hallal, trying to hide the ingredients by cooking it in milk won't make it more palatable to either side. To define this as "fundamentally a political conflict" when the instigators, Hamas, have proclaimed it as a fight to the death, a war to displace all the Jews in the area, the conclusion of a "hudna" with all the historical baggage associated with that term (wiping out the Jews) is to do a great disservice to your readers and the two parties. To set forth the "contours of a just peace [that] have been well known to all the players for years" but which are unacceptable to either side is nothing short of delusional. Your and Klein's declarations of what will happen "if Israel will only" are sophomoric in the extreme and beyond belief.

This is one of those cases, like a schoolyard fight, where separating the combatants isn't going to please anybody except those backing the losers, and in this case, the losers have refused to accept a cease-fire because the conditions of that cease-fire (no more rocket attacks and the tacit recognition of Israel) are anathema to them. If you believe in the right of someone to decide the terms of his or her own death, then you have no right to interfere. And since when is the value of the life of a Gazan any different from that of an Iraqi, a Sudanese or an Afghani, not to mention an American?

In conclusion, your position is no more defensible than that I recall hearing in 1973 after the conclusion of the Yom Kippur War: that the Israeli move that trapped the Egyptian army on the Sinai side of the canal was completed only after the demand for a cease-fire was in place, and hence didn't count.

Although war seems to be the national sport in that part of the world, treating the current conflict like a sporting event, with appeals to referees, is not the solution.

Richard Smiley

Salmon Arm, BC, Canada

Jan 11 2009 - 4:47pm

Web Letter

Obama's challenge is to follow the democratic presidential tradition and bring peace to Palestine. Democrats Carter and Clinton brought giant steps toward peace to Israel, Republicans Reagan and the two Bushes only brought wars.

We thought that we were on the beginning of a new march toward peace in 1980 when Jimmy Carter and Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman brought us the Camp David accords and the peace with Egypt. But I already had a foreboding of things to come in the fall of 1980 at the annual Weizmann Institute fundraising dinner in Chicago. The honored after-dinner speaker was Defense Minister Weizman, who justifiably extolled the virtues of President Carter for bringing us peace. American Jews were horrified. This was during an American presidential campaign and they were supporting Ronald Reagan to win the presidency against Carter.

My dreams of a bright future started to explode soon afterward, when Reagan replaced Carter as president and Ariel Sharon replaced Weizman as Israel's defense minister. Reagan and his heirs, together with Sharon, have torn the Mideast peace process to shreds, and there are doubts that it can ever recover.

Reagan and the subsequent American US Republican administrations had no interest in Israel nor Mideast peace. They saw Israel's strong army as an ally in their fights against evil empires, axes of evil or whatever. They were happy to see Israel's sons and daughters die for their version of the American dream.

Sharon was an opportunist who had no ideology nor morality. He knew that what was best for Ariel Sharon was best for Israel. He was always ready to make Faustian bargains with anyone who would allow him to sacrifice Israel's sons and daughters for the glory of Ariel Sharon.

Clinton brought us close to a durable just peace in 2000 at Camp David. This was torpedoed by Geoerge W. Bush. A big challenge for our new president, Barack Obama, is to repair eight years of damage, bring us back to the path toward peace created by Clinton and move forward to real peace.

Harry J. Lipkin

Rehovot, Israel

Jan 10 2009 - 1:40pm

Web Letter

This entire article does not bother to mention that Hamas has continually rejected the entire idea of peace with Israel. Add just this one dose of reality, and the article falls apart totally.

Israel should wait until Hamas sends a public delegation to ask for a cease-fire, and nothing of any value can possibly happen otherwise.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Jan 10 2009 - 1:05am

Web Letter

I think a truce is possible and sustainable with Hamas. It would not be sustainable without Gazans having normal life and access to the outside world , or stopping the creeping imperialism of the Israeli settlements into the West Bank. Hamas has committed to respect any peace agreement negotiated by the PA and confirmed by a referendum with the Palestinian people. Peace is possible, if the Israelis want it.

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Jan 9 2009 - 12:50pm

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