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U.S. Drops Charges in PLO Deportation Case

May 02, 1987

Here's hoping there is a sense of embarrassment all the way to the Oval Office! I refer to your story (April 24), "U.S. Drops Subversion Counts Against 6 of 8 Accused in PLO Case." The federal government has been caught again--playing shell games with the lives of people. In this case, eight Southern California Palestinians accused of "plotting the overthrow of the U.S. government" were the victims.

A small victory for justice! But with no thanks to the Justice Department. The government's decision to drop its charges is the result of one thing only. It knew it would lose in court!

At least for the moment this brings some relief. I was worried. Who would be next? Clearly, many of us could be labeled as opposing some government policy. Yes, we even want to see changes. It's a small step from "change" to "overthrow," if one is inclined toward demagogic rhetorical manipulation.

Whether the L.A. Eight are part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) or not is of little immediate consequence. What is at stake is fundamental. The right of people of diverse views to speak those views. That is the issue. And that is basic to what makes our nation unique. The Arab-American community in the United States deserves to be heard.

Fortunately, the attempt to make an example of these defendants--and so eliminate a group of dissenters--failed. Unfortunately, at another level, the issue of dissent and open debate is still in doubt. A more honest, realistic discussion of U.S. Middle East policy in general and the Palestinian question in particular is to be hoped for.

Current government policy and the American political climate work against open public consideration of Palestinian aspirations. This has been counterproductive. In fact, it is tragic. To allow rhetoric like "dealing with terrorists" (which we seem to do easily in Central America) or charges of "anti-Semitism" (Palestinians are Semites, too) to stifle policy options is not in the U.S. interest.

Without free discussion of Palestinian concerns, no Middle East peace is possible. Everyone suffers. Everyone loses. A change is in order. May justice continue to prevail, even if Washington gets egg on its face.

ROBERT C. DOUGLAS

Executive Director

Zwemer Institute

of Muslim Studies

Altadena

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