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Massacre in Mosque

March 04, 1994

The tragic events in Hebron on Feb. 25 mark a black day in the history of the Middle East. In the first instance this atrocity is, of course, a tragedy for the Palestinian people, but it is also a tragedy for the Jewish people. While some may attempt to depict the perpetrator as irrational and capricious, it is reasonable to assume that Baruch Goldstein operated with a clear understanding of the human scale and the historical significance of his horrendous deed.

First by choosing to act on the Jewish holiday of Purim, Goldstein was distorting the historical legacy and meaning of that festival. The scroll of Esther relates that on this day the Jews of Persia were empowered to defend themselves from the threat of annihilation. Goldstein exploited this account to justify his wanton destruction of the lives of scores of innocent victims--worshipers in a sacred place on a sacred day.

Moreover, by choosing to undertake this massacre in Hebron, Goldstein was desecrating the memory of the Jewish martyrs of that city, themselves religious men and women who were mercilessly slaughtered in 1929 while preparing for the onset of the Shabbat. Although he may have thought himself an avenger of the 1929 pogrom, Goldstein in fact was endangering the lives of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, and undermining the prospects for peaceful coexistence in that region.

DAVID N. MEYERS

Asst. Professor of Jewish History, UCLA

RABBI CHAIM SEIDLER-FELLER

Director, Hillel Jewish Center, UCLA

* The massacre of Arabs at prayer in the mosque at Hebron by an Israeli settler--and the continuing slaughter of Arabs by Israeli soldiers in the aftermath of the massacre--may have been triggered by the act of a lone Jewish terrorist. But this horror is unquestionably the direct result of Israel's illegal occupation of Arab lands.

It is the ugliest of reminders that the true obstacle to peace in the West Bank and Gaza remains the Israeli occupation and, particularly, Israel's policy of expanding its borders by putting increasing numbers of Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine.

We remind our fellow Americans that Israel's occupation is illegal under international law, defies the United Nations, and contradicts repeatedly expressed U.S. policy regarding the conflict. For 46 years, we have sometimes watched but most of the time put our support behind the aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What America needs are a President and a Congress who, in the face of potent political pressure, will summon the courage to do what is right.

DONALD S. BUSTANY, President

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination

Committee, Los Angeles Chapter

* The Anti-Defamation League is saddened by the needless killings committed by a fanatic individual at a mosque in Hebron.

Extremists should not be allowed to disrupt the path toward peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs.

We affirm our unwavering support for the peace process and the efforts of the Israeli government to ensure the security of all who live in Israel and the territories.

PAUL FISHBEIN, Chair

ADL Regional Board, Santa Ana

* The reporting of the events surrounding the mosque massacre exposed a double standard in journalism. Absent in the articles are the terms "Jewish terrorism" and "Jewish fundamentalism," the probable sources of this and similar tragedies. The media, on the other hand, do not hesitate to label any violent acts committed by Muslims as terrorist with likely connections to an international conspiracy--claims that are usually unsubstantiated.

Before the dead have been buried and mourned, the international community is reacting by increasing security against presumed fears of retaliation. It is as if they cannot tolerate the image of Muslims as victims but want to perpetuate the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists.

We condemn all violent acts committed against innocent civilians in the name of religion. We equally abhor the recent attack on Catholic worshipers in Lebanon. We call for increased security for the Palestinians who are largely defenseless against the armed settlers and an obviously biased Israeli army. This could be provided by U.N. soldiers who could at least protect worshipers at the mosques, churches and synagogues in the Holy Land. We support the desire of the Palestinians for self-determination and concur that progress cannot be made without addressing the issue of the settlements in the occupied territories.

MAGDY ELETREBY, Chairman

Islamic Center of Southern California

* The murder of dozens of Arab worshipers in Hebron was an atrocity. The Kach party's fascist ideology is a perversion and degradation of Jewish values. Nevertheless, despite our pain and shame, it is worthwhile to bear in mind these points:

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