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More letters from alumni about Palestinian demonstration

Apparently in the Princetonian on-campus and alumni community, as in the media and the nation, there is mostly unremitting and unqualified support of what is taken to be "the Israeli position" and, equally, the assumption that there is one "Palestinian" position: "aggression" toward Israel.

First, each side in this endless confrontation has many positions, ranging from unremitting hostility to unremitting searches for accommodation. Or you could say there are many "sides" and no "right" side.

Second, when were the occupied ones, in any occupation in history, passively compliant with conditions imposed by the occupier?

Third, how can it be forgotten that the current Time of Troubles, with an 8-to-1 ratio of Palestinian casualties over Israelis, began last September with Sharon's provocative march with massive force toward Al Aqsa Mosque?

Fourth, let's knock off convenient myths (to those pro-Israel) such as that Arafat "controls" Palestinians and that Palestinian parents are sending their children into the streets to throw rocks.

Charlton R. Price '48

Kansas City, Mo.

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So PAW saw fit to run a piece featuring a photo of a group of guttersnipes holding signs reading "in memory of the Victims of Israeli Aggression," did it? I am wondering how come PAW does not also run a piece commemorating the German victims of Jewish aggression during World War II. After all, it makes just as much sense and no doubt the same student protesters would endorse that demand as well.

Steven Plaut '78

Haifa, Israel

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Your most recent letterwriters (March 21) attempt to obscure the obvious. Not only was the protest shown in your December 6 issue anything but apolitical, but it was based upon an entirely false premise: that there are "Victims of Israeli Aggression" to memorialize.

Just to review the facts, the Palestinian Authority forswore violence as a means of achieving its aims in 1993, for which it was rewarded with over 40,000 assault weapons (paid with U.S. dollars). Then, following an impossibly generous offer at Camp David by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which would have given the Palestinians the state they desire, Arafat abandoned negotiations - and started this round of violence.

Since then, suicide bombers and trained snipers have both taken aim at Israeli civilians with the PA's active support. To fire back, be that for self-defense or even retaliation, is not aggression. As for the writer who called the idea that "Palestinian mothers will send their children to be shot" a "reflection of Palestinian depravity" - I cannot disagree. Unfortunately, however, he would do well not to obscure reality by ridiculing the idea. Palestinian children have been quoted saying that they want to grow up and be a "shaheed" (martyr) while yet in their mothers' arms. And that is exactly what Israeli soldiers confront every day: terrorist gunmen callously using stone-throwing children as human shields.

Ken Menken '86

Baltimore, Md.

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I take issue with each of the three letters you published (March 12) attacking the criticism PAW received for its Snapshot coverage of a Palestinian protest. The authors decry Israeli "aggression" while describing the Palestinian people as a "victim," whose acceptance of Israel's existence has not resulted in reciprocity from the Israeli side.

Actually, it was the Palestinian side that began and is continuing this latest uprising. In signing the Oslo accords, Yasser Arafat committed the Palestinian leadership to the renunciation of violence in the pursuit of its political aims. At Camp David last summer, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians control of virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in the context of a sovereign Palestinian state. This offer far outreached any made up to that point by an Israeli leader.

Arafat rejected the offer, as was his right, but rather than make a counter-offer consistent with his renunciation of violence, he chose to launch a violent confrontation in the hopes of galvanizing international support for the Palestinians and imposing a solution more to his liking on Israel. The resulting casualties, Palestinian and Israeli, are the direct result of Mr. Arafat's decision.

Having chosen violence, the Palestinians cannot legitimately claim to be victims (except, perhaps, of the folly of their own leadership). No one on the Israeli side wants to continue fighting, but Israel will and must continue to protect its own citizens when they come under attack. Israeli soldiers aren't sent to kill "unarmed children," but what exactly is the outcome sought by the Palestinian militiamen who shoot at Israelis from within throngs of rock- and firebomb-throwing kids?

Nor have Palestinians "accepted the fact of Israel's existence." A look at the textbooks and maps used in Palestinian grade schools will show no acknowledgment of Israel's presence. Palestinian intellectual leaders continue to inveigh against the legitimacy of Israel, while political and religious leaders incite to violence. And Palestinian bombs continue to explode in Israeli cities, while Israeli motorists are gunned down on the highways (with weapons provided to the Palestinians by Israel in the context of the Oslo accords!), with no condemnation from Arafat or his subordinates.

If the Palestinian leadership truly wants peace and coexistence with Israel, it will find a willing partner on the Israeli side. The decision must be made, however, to stop the shootings and the bombings and denounce from the highest levels violence and incitement. Alternatively, the Palestinian leadership could opt to continue with armed confrontation. If it does so, however, it should not expect Israel to negotiate under fire, and its supporters should not cry foul when Israeli countermeasures are taken.

Mitch Schwaber '86
B oston, MA and Jerusalem, Israel

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The three apologists for the "non-political" pro-Palestinian protestors (Letters, March 21) fail to understand the definition of the term "aggression."

When a first person fires bullets, throws bombs, or drives a bus at a second person, the first person commits "aggression."

When the second person, being shot at, fires back, that is not "aggression," even if an innocent bystander is accidentally shot in the process.

Unfortunately, essentially all of the deaths - of both Israelis and Palestinians - arose as a result of attacks initiated by Palestinians, to which the Israeli Army responded.

When a Palestinian youth was accidentally killed in the cross-fire of a battle initiated by Palestinians, the Palestinian propaganda machine ran overtime, but when an 10-month-old Israeli baby was killed in a playground in March 2001 by a Palestinian sniper aiming at civilians, the world yawned.

There is no moral equivalence between intentional Palestinian attacks on civilians and military targets alike and Israeli Army efforts to counterattack, with the intent of firing back only against those firing at them or civilians.

The most telling fact is that an Israeli (even a soldier) who fired intentionally at noncombatant Palestinian civilians would be vilified by most Israelis and likely prosecuted, while Palestinian "civilians" who intentionally sought to kill Israeli civilians have been repeatedly hailed as heroes and martyrs.

Louis J. Hoffman '81
Scottsdale, Ariz.

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As one of the letterwriters criticized by Sumaiya Hamdani in the March 21 issue of PAW, I am outraged by Hamdani's attempt to label criticism of Palestinian battle tactics "racist." No one alleged that the Palestinians have an "itch for violence," but it is fair to say that their leaders have selected morally reprehensible means for attaining their ends.

It is no coincidence that youth constitute a disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties. This is the direct result of a conscious, cowardly decision by Palestinian leadership to move children to the front line as sacrifices in a public relations campaign for international support. Similar disregard for the value of human life is shown in the use by Palestinian forces of the homes of unarmed Palestinians to shell Israeli personnel and property. The New York Times recently reported on the hardship this "human shield" approach has caused the innocent occupants of these buildings.

About 25 years ago, the United Nations shamed itself in attempting to equate Zionism with racism. Rather than engaging in baseless sloganeering, Hamdani would be better served questioning whether Palestinian ends justify every means. There is nothing racist about questioning Arafat's launching of his "children's army" when confronted with Ehud Barak's sweeping Israeli peace proposal.

Dror Futter '86
Teaneck, N.J.

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