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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Palestinian Culture, From Different Angles

September 07, 2004

My jaw dropped after reading Irshad Manji's commentary, "Palestinians Are Trapped by Their Own Culture," Sept. 1. A Muslim woman suggests that the Palestinians are at least partly responsible for their own plight. Though I might have suggested their culpability was more profound and indicative of a cancerous element in the Islamic culture itself, I applaud Manji's courage to find the middle ground in this ancient and bloody argument.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems finally to see that the hard-line position he has maintained all these years will not stop the bombings or protect Israelis to their satisfaction. Withdrawing from Gaza, while a fairly small gesture, would at least show that Israel was willing to work things out with the Palestinians.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his supporters seem utterly incapable of containing their own extremist elements, which has resulted in serious internecine violence in Gaza.

Manji needs to be just one of many like-minded people voicing their opinions. Don't flinch from criticizing your own people; it's the ultimate act of patriotism.

Eric Potruch

Westchester

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According to Manji, "Hard-line Israelis resorted to demonstrating and jeering. Hard-line Palestinians resorted to blowing up buses and the people in them. That's a life-and-death difference in choices." How is that so? In the violence of the present intifada, direct Israeli casualties near 1,000 deaths, but Palestinian deaths number well over 3,000.

Maybe the point is that the Israelis who kill are not hard-line, but merely part of the mainstream in Israel. Considering that the major killing organization is the Israel Defense Forces, taking orders from a democratically elected government, I find it difficult to conclude otherwise.

Richard Pietrasz

Rancho Cucamonga

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Manji knows very little about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She demonstrated that in her book, "The Trouble With Islam," when she suggested that Arabs should invest money in the Palestinian infrastructure. Though this is a noble idea, it is, unfortunately, impossible as Article 9 of the 1994 Protocol on Economic Relations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization prohibits Palestinians from starting any new industry that would compete with an existing Israeli industry.

She also doesn't seem to get that Palestinian culture is deeply entwined with the culture of the Israeli military occupation. Steve Earle's song "Rich Man's War" comes much closer to the truth: Ali was the second son of a second son/ Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come/ Ain't nothin' else to do around here just a game children play/ Somethin' 'bout livin' in fear all your life makes you hard that way ....

Amir Hussain

Associate professor of religious studies Cal State Northridge

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