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Land and language in the Mideast

March 13, 2007

Re "In the war of words, The Times is Israel's ally," Outside the Tent, March 11

Saree Makdisi's column is disingenuous and misleading. Agreement on territory is unnecessary for recognition and cooperation. The British-Spanish dispute over Gibraltar is now more than 300 years old, but has that stopped these two nations from working together as members of the European Union?

Makdisi reminds us that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes in 1948, a tragedy and a great wrong. Sadly, it was neither unusual nor illegal. It was part of a huge wave of (mostly forced) migration that took place in the postwar period. Millions of Germans were expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia; Jews also suffered -- expelled from Morocco, Yemen and Iraq. Israel is no paradise, and Israelis are not angels. They have learned through hard experience that their survival depends on their toughness and their wits. If Hamas truly wishes to lead the Palestinians to a better future, it needs to start seeing Israel as a partner rather than an enemy.

ROBERT HELBING

Monrovia

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Conspicuously absent from Makdisi's false and angry narrative is any notion that the Palestinians bear responsibility for their own troubles. Makdisi fails to mention that it was the Arabs who rejected the two-state solution proposed by the Peel Commission in 1937, the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947 and the peace agreement brokered by President Clinton at Camp David in 2000. Last but not least, Makdisi overlooks the toxic effects of the culture of hatred that causes Palestinians to cheer suicide bombings and worship terrorists as martyrs. Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is not up for debate. Unless and until the Palestinians accept that fact and permanently eschew hatred and terrorism, they can blame only themselves for their plight.

STEVEN M. GOLDBERG

Los Angeles

The writer is national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America.

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Makdisi is to be commended for his thoughtful analysis of Israel's "right to exist." We simply don't hear from Palestinians enough in this country, hence the one-sided view that is held that Israel somehow has more rights than the people whose land it occupies. First, countries don't have rights, people do. Nations usually exist because they used force to become a country, just as the U.S. did in dispossessing the Native Americans. And Israel since 1967 has pushed the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza into ever-smaller camps. Countries fall apart from within, as did the Soviet empire and any number of African countries. Throwing up smoke screens by demanding that an occupied people recognize the occupiers is good neither for the Palestinians nor the Israelis. Israel needs to live in the neighborhood instead of trying to conquer it.

GRETA BERLIN

Los Angeles

The writer is a member of Women in Black -- Los Angeles, which calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to Israeli occupation.

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Makdisi's assertions are essentially correct. In making his case, however, the author does a disservice to all Palestinians and Israelis. Failure by the leadership of both sides to strike a creative and bold step, similar to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in 1977, perpetuates the institutional asymmetry that exists in the region and encourages policies of unilateralism. A vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live side by side, and the lack of visionary leadership is the greatest obstacle to peace.

MIKE DAVIDSON

Altadena

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Thank you for publishing Makdisi's article. By parroting Israel's script, the media have aided and abetted the destruction of Palestinian life, culture and patrimony. Doesn't everyone realize the absurdity of the elderly Palestinian refugee with a key to his or her house in historic Palestine, proclaiming that the immigrant Jew has a "right to exist" on the refugee's stolen property?

NANCY ALMENDRAS

Wiesbaden, Germany

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Makdisi takes The Times to task for insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist. Fine. How about insisting only that Palestinians stop killing Israelis? Personally, I'd settle for that.

BRUCE FRIEDMAN

Beverly Hills

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