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Lack of knowledge about the Mideast

June 25, 2007

Re "Western fictions, Arab realities," Opinion, June 19

Jonah Goldberg makes some good points in his column, but there are some points that he ignores. First, he talks about "a generous peace offer from the Israelis ... brokered by President Clinton." There are two problems with this. First, "generous" depends on which side of the negotiating table you are sitting on. Second, outside of a handful of people who were actually in the negotiating room, no one knows just what the peace offer was. Indeed, the details were likely not known even by the people at the table -- they simply hadn't been worked out. And although it is partly true that "Israel simply gave Gaza to the Palestinians," the Israelis kept hold of the borders, port and airport, effectively sealing the Gazans inside. For the Gaza economy, this constraint is fatal. With massive unemployment an inevitable consequence of sealing Gaza, it should hardly be a surprise that Gaza turned extremist.

BRUCE WALKER

San Pedro

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The neoconservative case for war sounds compelling: establish what Goldberg calls "the freedom agenda" in Iraq, then let the "freedom dominos" fall. A fatal problem with the theory is that Goldberg demonstrates little understanding of America's true freedom agenda. For example, according to the founding fathers, freedom means individuals, not groups, have rights and responsibilities. But Goldberg holds all Arabs responsible for the criminal acts of individuals in Hamas. Group guilt sustains the Hatfields-and-McCoys-style blood feuds that fester throughout the Middle East.

MIKE BINKLEY

Laguna Woods

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Goldberg expresses a dawning suspicion that the Arab world "just isn't interested" in the president's "freedom agenda," yet Goldberg says he still believes in that agenda. He's behind the times. Even Bush is beginning to realize his naivete in expecting to create within a few years the concept of democracy, of individual equality and freedom, in a society entirely lacking the prerequisites for such beliefs. Hopefully, Bush, Goldberg and the rest of us will face up to the realities of dealing with those who are different from us. Instead of trying to mold them into copies of ourselves, we must work harder to understand them. That is the path, if any exists, to peace.

DEWEY WASSER

Thousand Oaks

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