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'Closed Circle,' Closed Mind

July 09, 1989

How pejorative can you get? I refer to John Kelley's alarming review of David Pryce-Jones' "The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs" (Book Review, June 18), which gives us two "experts" on the Middle East explaining in their condescending manner why the "self-destructive Arab psyche" prevents these human beings from joining the enlightened, moral inhabitants of Western society.

We are told that Arab (PLO) leaders in "far-off, comfortable havens" (like the twice-bombed Tunis, site of the Abu Jihad assassination?) send their "rank and file" workers to do their "dirty work." Is it possible that Western leaders, too, have committed their sons and daughters into foolish and deadly undertakings? Does World War I come to mind? Vietnam? Beirut?

Kelley, reflecting the author's point of view, wonders "why is it that representative and parliamentary institutions . . . have failed to take root in Arab soil even though they were planted several times . . . by Britain and France?" Maybe it has to do with the fact that all people, including Arabs, don't like it when another power invades their land, plants foreign flags on their soil, carves out artificial territories solely to divide and conquer, and imposes puppet regimes on them.

We learn that since "no sophisticated political machine exists for the expression" of popular will in Arab countries, "it will, like tribal or family feuds, be resolved by violence." Should we then characterize the American Revolution as a "tribal conflict," or "family feud," because we had no sophisticated political institutions in place to successfully articulate our desires?

Kelley also claims that Arabs believe "there is no shame in engaging in what Westerners would regard as lying and cheating, especially in commercial transactions." Of course, no Westerner would even dream of cheating another human being, and Wall Street's S.E.C. is a living anachronism.

Rather than being a "brave, honest and thoughtful book," as Kelley claims, what we have here is another racist polemic attempting to equate "Arab" with something dirty, backward, and violent. Imagine, please, if the article were entitled "Why Aren't the Jews More Like Us?" Shouldn't little warning bells go off in our minds?

Finally, what is meant by "us" anyway? America is a pluralistic society. Arabs are as much a part of America and Western values as anyone else. Arabs pump gas, run liquor stores, treat the sick, plan cities, and teach our children. To write that there is something intrinsic to the "Semitic nature" that is hostile to Western ideals belongs on the pages of "Mein Kampf," not on the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

DAVID DARWAZEH

LOMA LINDA

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