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Israel, Palestinians and Violence in Gaza and the West Bank

December 26, 1987

Helena Cobban's article, "Once Again Palestinians Must Die For Attention" (Op-Ed, Dec. 17), is reflective of the pattern of thinking of Arabists who are a part of the Washington establishment. Seeking to reconstruct the events of the Middle East within a limited time prism, Cobban presents to the readers of The Los Angeles Times a series of issues neatly setting aside the historical framework by which the issues on the West Bank and Gaza must be viewed.

Prior to the Israeli presence in these areas, Arab governments had the opportunity to resolve the refugee crisis. Neither Jordan nor Egypt, when given the challenge prior to 1967, were prepared to assist their Arab brethren.

Since Israel's inception in 1948, 400,000 Jews from Muslim lands have been absorbed into Israel. Why has no such opportunity for Arab resettlement occurred on the part of Muslim governments? Clearly, the blatant reality is to use these "refugees" as pawns in the international political campaign against Israel. The critics of Israel tend to forget the reality of this exchange of populations or opportunities for others to likewise participate in these tasks of salvaging lives.

It is troubling to note the singularity of focus given to this issue by commentators, such as Cobban and the press, where little attention has ever been paid to the status of Jews in Arab lands, one might cite with horror the chronology of Arab atrocities against others, including the slaughter of 10,000 Muslims in Hama, Syria or the hundreds of deaths reported in Mecca during this past year.

Cobban states, "The major demand of the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza is simply that the Israelis leave." This "simple" demand ignores the Arabs unwilling, with the exception of Egypt, to come to terms with Israel in order to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

The Cobban analysis provides no accounting for the forces contributing to or exhorting this unrest, yet in The Los Angeles Times of Dec. 16, we are reminded of the Arab world's efforts to encourage this type of unrest. The Times reports that Muslim religious and political leaders, have encouraged this type of disobedience, through the forces of Islamic Jihad (Holy War) and the PLO who prefer no peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issues but rather favor the continuation and encouragement of conflict.

In her concluding remarks, Cobban has urged that American presidential candidates pledge to uphold the human rights of the Palestinians; but, conveniently she abstains from any reference to the status of Jews in Arab or Muslim lands. Seeking only to isolate this one issue and frame it in the shadow of Israeli abuses, the author's amnesia has come to the fore. No mention is made of the Israeli efforts to upgrade the standard of living in these areas, programs of education and training provided in the Gaza strip and West Bank or the numerous efforts by both Jews and Arabs to seek alternative answers to the complexity of this human saga.


Executive Director

Jewish Federation Council

of Greater Los Angeles

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