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Innocents Suffer in Mideast

January 25, 2003

I could not finish "Preoccupied Territory" (Opinion, Jan. 19). Lynn Cohen's point of view, that innocent Arabs are suffering, left no room for outrage at the Arab leaders whose terrorist aims and unwillingness to seek peace are in large part responsible for the present heart-rending situation.

It is a known axiom, and I quote Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben: "When leaders go astray, innocent people suffer." Unfortunately, innocent people are suffering on both sides. Since the intifada began in earnest two years ago, more than 700 Israelis have been murdered and over 5,000 Israelis have been burned, maimed, wounded and permanently disabled in terror attacks. This does not address the Israelis (as well as the Arabs) mourning lost loved ones and living in constant fear.

Although there may be excesses on both sides, I wonder how gentle Cohen thinks soldiers at war should be while homicide bombers are blowing up their families.

Roberta B. Gillerman

Los Angeles

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I would like to thank you for including the beautifully written "Preoccupied Territories." I admire Cohen's strength, fortitude and sense of fairness in going to the occupied territories to see for herself what is going on. It takes guts for a Jew nowadays to come out and argue that the path of peace must include security for the Israelis, but that security will never come when there is no respect for the rights of Palestinians to eat, live, go to school and earn a living. The news that the Israelis bulldozed an entire Palestinian market on Jan. 21 only highlights the folly of collectively punishing an occupied people on the sins of a few. It will only lead to more bloodshed and hate.

A policy by the U.S. toward Israel of insisting on security for Israel and respect for the Palestinians is the only way to go. It is possible to be pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian; only by opening our hearts to this will the conflict ever be stopped.

Carrie Vanston

Los Angeles

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While Cohen did make an honest attempt to be evenhanded about the current situation on the West Bank she ignored the basic cause for the admittedly sad plight of the Palestinians. This was the decision of their leaders to abandon the negotiating process and resort to violence.

Initially, Israel stated that it had no intention of reoccupying the Palestinian territories, but as the violence escalated and the homicide bombings increased, Israel changed its mind and went back in. Israelis are convinced that, while not totally successful, they are able to thwart many, if not most, attacks. They fear that withdrawal will simply make it easier for the extremists to make more bombs and murder more Israelis.

Does Cohen think that an abrupt Israeli withdrawal would defuse the situation and that the Palestinian extremists would stand down? Not according to the spokespeople of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who regard all of Israel as "occupied Arab land." Her friend Dahoud may not be a suicide bomber, but if he ever wants to be able to work in Tel Aviv again he had better find some way to convince his more radical neighbors to renounce violence and proclaim their readiness to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.

Rabbi Gilbert Kollin

Pasadena

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Cohen erroneously lays the blame for the oppressive living conditions that innocent Palestinians are forced to endure at the doorstep of Israel. Israel must do what it deems necessary to protect itself from terrorist attacks on its civilian population, because the Palestinian leadership either fails or refuses to do anything to prevent them from occurring. When terrorism ends, the occupation ends. When the occupation ends, Palestinians will be able to resume living normal lives again. Why is it so difficult for people of ordinary intelligence to grasp such simple truths?

Bruce M. Friedman

Los Angeles

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