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The tangled roots of the Mideast conflict

July 31, 2006

Timothy Garton Ash is absolutely correct that Israel has its origins and moral force in the hideous crimes of European anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust (Opinion, July 27). What he doesn't explore is why Palestinians had to pay the price for these crimes.

It would have been more logical for the survivors of the Holocaust to claim a section of Germany -- the Rhineland, perhaps -- as compensation for their suffering, much as the Poles appropriated Silesia. With the Rhineland as their home -- perhaps renamed Judea -- the European Jews would have remained in Europe, retained Yiddish rather than an artificially revived Hebrew as their national tongue and been reintegrated with the continental community. Making the Palestinians pay so dearly for Europe's murderous history of anti-Semitism is at the heart of Israel's moral ambivalence, and it likely will remain so for as long as this brave but radically misplaced nation exists.

LEON WHITESON

Los Angeles

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Ash and others who make the argument of Europe's culpability in the problems of the Middle East, because of its horrendous treatment of Jews and their subsequent escape to form modern-day Israel, miss a crucial point. Since the 7th century, Jews have lived in awful conditions in Muslim Arab lands as well. The 7th century Pact of Omar forced non-Muslims to wear special clothing identifying them as such, made them ride donkeys instead of horses and mandated that they couldn't build a house taller than a Muslim's. Though there was no Holocaust for Jews in the Arab world, they certainly had their share of massacres.

The fact is that for centuries, Jews in Muslim Arab lands were Zionists who longed for a new state of Israel to protect them and faced Jerusalem when they prayed. It's about time that the Arab world faced up to its part in the creation of Israel through its awful treatment of Jews for 1,400 years, which helped fuel the Zionist dream to build a new state that would protect Jews worldwide.

JOSEPH GOLD

Torrance

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