from alumni about recent Palestinian protests on campus, 2002
What follows is a copy of a letter written to
Sharon Weiner, who was mentioned in a PAW
article, April 10.
September 2, 2002
Dear Ms. Weiner,
Catching up on old Princeton Alumni Weeklys, I was surprised at how one-sided
were the letters
in the June 5 issue regarding the short note in the April 10 issue
about the rallies your were attributed to have organized. (Maybe I missed
the issue where the pro-letters were printed!) I agree with your simple
points as paraphrased in PAW about respect and self determination
for both sides, and the lack of neutrality in the US position. Unfortunately,
the situation over there seems only to have gotten worse in the last 6
I also wanted to say I admire your initiative in getting your group organized
and making a statement. You seem to be a minority or maybe the
voice of a larger, silent group. Somehow basic American ideals of freedom
of speech and freedom of religion have been superceded by the dogma of
"We support Israel, Right or Wrong". (At a national level, this
only provides more recruits for Al Qaeda, delays peace in the Middle East,
and alienates the formerly oppressed, emerging countries of the world
who have admired the U.S. for what we fight for.) The letters (and can
I infer reaction on campus?) suggest you and your rallyers deserve our
thanks for the courage to expand the diversity of thought on campus and
in the U.S.
Along with Bernard Lewis's masterwork, K.E. Scudder '63 suggests we read
Falk's short article in The Nation I was up to that
challenge. Falk plausibly faults PLO Chairman Arafat for not adequately
communicating his reasons for rejecting the offer by then-Israeli-Prime-Minister
Ehud Barak at Camp David. Falk provides a reasonable contributing explanation
for Arafat's diffidence: the fact that an insufficient proportion of post
WW-II Palestine was included in the deal.
One might conclude, as I do, that Palestinian priority No. 1 has never
been to "end the occupation" with a state, but to maximize the
quantity of land reclaimed from Israel. (Inter alia, President Bush's
recent offer of a state with borders to be negotiated later suggests the
administration understands this issue with pinpoint accuracy.) Falk's
true colors are showing. He is untroubled by the very real Arab threat
to murder Israelis in large numbers and to evict Israel from the region
and from the map in one fell swoop. His is not a scholarly essay (though
of course "publish or perish" has led to a lowering of that
standard) but a kneejerk, self-congratulatory, foggy substitute for the
meaningful, novel, insightful analysis that once was expected from a high-status
intellectual such as Mr. Falk.
While Messrs. Falk & Scudder are polarized along the anachronistic
axis of colonialism and imperialism (guys, exactly when was it that South
Asian terrorists sent suicide bombers to Coventry and murdered English
schoolchildren as they rode by bus to class?), they misunderstand or disregard
the contemporary kulturkampf directed against non-Arabs and most of all,
Israel. Do they purport to be students of the region? If so, their grades
will suffer from a failure to integrate into their essays the tribal nature
of Arab society (a defect which Bernard Lewis's tome could correct). Tribalism
emerges in the absence of widely accepted standards of governance. Those
in Arafat's "tribe" follow the Palestinian Authority; those
in the Hamas "tribe" do not, no Arab really trusts Arafat or
Hamas, my enemy's enemy is my friend, I fight my brother but unite
to defeat our cousin we cousins against the world, etc., etc.,
Gentlemen, class is in session. Please take your seats! Today's lesson
is a theorem whose underlying propositions, sadly, are valid as they were
73 years ago (when deadly and widespread "Palestinian on Palestinian"
violence prevailed killing Palestinian Jews, that is). That theorem
is: "The only attainable forms of Arab government being an Islamic
state ruled by clerics or a feudalistic state ruled by strongmen, no Palestinian
Arab sovereign entity can live peacefully alongside any non-Moslem political
entity, sovereign or not." Jews had, in 1948, and still, in 2002,
have no particular need of a state except for the intolerance by Arab
tribalists for Jewish political groups an intolerance without which
there would be no state of Israel today, and no particular regrets by
Jews for its absence. Yes, students (you must pay attention to the man
behind the curtain), the state of Israel is the creation of Arab tribal
intolerance. Until tribalism as a regional governing political force dissipates,
Israel per se must survive. Since she can only survive under siege, how
can one blame her for defending herself? Curious attempts to regard Israel
as a 19th-century colonial power by impoverished "publish or perish"
intellects notwithstanding, Israel has only one choice: to protect its
citizenry from the deathwishes of crazed, and now literally
That does it! Once too often I have received my issue of PAW only to find
more letters relentlessly bashing the Palestinians living under a 35-year-old
Israeli military occupation along with any who dare support their demands
for freedom and independence. It's time to set the record straight.
On June 5, 196,7 Israel started a war with its neighbors by launching
a massive sneak attack on the Egyptian air force and destroyed it on the
ground. It then proceeded to invade Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian West
Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. The war was most profitable for Israel,
which ended up occupying huge swaths of its neighbors land. It wasted
no time in confiscating large chunks of this occupied territory from its
Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian owners to make way for heavily fortified,
racially segregated (Jewish-only) settlement colonies.
After the war of 1973, Egypt got its land back. The Palestinians, without
a massive Soviet supplied army, were not so lucky. Since the day in 1967
when Israel chose to launch its conquest, the Palestinians have not seen
a single day of freedom. Since that day, Israel has ruled over the Palestinian
people through brute military force.
Mass arrests, torture, home demolitions, land confiscation, systematic
looting of water and agricultural resources and a relentless campaign
of assassinations targeting Palestinian political and community leaders
by Israeli occupation forces are what Palestinians have had to live with
every day for the past 35 years. Just last week, Israeli tanks rained
artillery down on a Palestinian market filled with unarmed civilians.
Their crime? Curfew violation! Four innocent civilians, three of them
children were cut down in a hail of shrapnel ordered by Israeli commanders
for simply leaving their homes without Israeli permission. Terror? I challenge
any supporter of Israel to go live for a week as a Palestinian in the
Occupied West Bank or Gaza and then tell me who's the terrorist and who's
To those who have written to PAW to attack the Palestinians and the students
who support their demand for freedom, I say to you. Stop blaming the victim.
Stop shooting the messenger. It is a disgrace to Princeton and the ideals
its stands for.
When I was at Princeton some 40 years ago, it seemed that we, students
and professors alike, shared an optimistic spirit that the old imperial
and colonial systems of the day were breaking up, and good riddance. The
former colonies were all winning their independence, and self-determination
was the order of the day.
Now we are living through much less sunny times, and one of the most galling
anomalies of our time is the continuance in power of the Israeli colonial
state in Palestine. It's remarkably ironic that the U.S., which grew out
the first anticolonial revolution, has given unlimited military and financial
assistance to Israel, the world's last colony. The leading Israeli human
rights organization, B'Tselem, states in its May 2002 report that "Israel
has created in the occupied territories a regime of separation...basing
the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only
one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful (ones)
from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa." B'Tselem
might have added that the same "nationality" based laws (read
"Jews only") govern immigration, land ownership, and myriad
other rights and benefits in pre-1967 Israel.
Why the eruption of rancorous letters from alumni against the pro-Palestinian
student leader Sharon Weiner? She seems to have touched a nerve. Perhaps
we "guys" should follow Joseph H. Abeles '82 and read Bernard
Lewis and then Richard Falk. Professor Falk's seminal article "Ending
the Death Dance" (The Nation, April 29, 2002) is the clearest,
fairest analysis I've read of the current impasse in the Middle East.
I hope PAW will republish it not that it will change the steely
minds of the "might makes right" types, but, for the rest of
us who want to live in a world in which international law and human rights
are more than piously invoked niceties check it out!
Over the last year, PAW has reported several times on pro-Palestinian
campus rallies. Are there no pro-Israel rallies to report as well? If
there are, please report them. While the underdog's story is more enticing,
the stronger side is sometimes on the moral high ground. In any case,
a balanced presentation would be appreciated.
of April 10 reported small rallies protesting US support of Israel
in its attempt to stop Palestinian terror. The facts dont justify
such protests. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leaders rejected agreements
by which they would rule independently over 95 percent of the territory
that was occupied when Jordan attacked Israel in 1967. Instead of continuing
to negotiate, they deliberately turned to lethal violence against civilians.
Since the terror attacks that began in September 2000, more than 430 Israeli
men, women and children have been killed and more than two thousand wounded
in the suicide bombing and gunning of restaurants, weddings, Bar Mitzva
parties, public buses, and shopping malls. In the 40-times larger population
of the U.S., this would equal 17,000 terrorist murder victims.
The Israeli people do not want to be sitting ducks. Their government,
like NATO in Yugoslavia and the U.S. in Afghanistan, has believed that
force could stop terror; but it cannot do so without diplomacy and dialogue.
I belong to an organization of 1,200 former colonels and generals that
is part of a movement to get a million signatures (in a population of
six million) for withdrawal from nearly all of the occupied territory,
with or without an agreement; but unless the Palestinian leaders stop
the attacks, there is little chance that a threatened public will back
such a move. The Palestinians should by all means have their own independent
state and enjoy economic growth and democratic citizenship. They can only
achieve these aims through peace, not war. The Israelis dont want
to fight them or to rule over them, but to live in peace without fear.
All of us admire freedom of speech on campus, and I certainly have no
problem with the free expression of opinions or with PAW or others reporting
on those expressions.
That said, I am deeply troubled by journalistically inaccurate reports
which treat opinions and allegations as though they were facts. The article
captioned "More Palestinian Rallies" reported in Notebook
in the April 10, 2002, issue of PAW is an example.
Allegations and opinions which evidently were the basis of the rallies
have been reported there as facts. For example, without that clarification,
such as by using the word "alleged" (or a similar expression)
in each of the following quote phrases, it is misleading to state that
these rallies "protest the inhumane treatment of Palestinians by
the Israelis," which are intended to "bring campus attention
to Israeli oppression of Palestinians,"" in order to "bring
awareness to the lack of U.S. neutrality in this process." The article
further attacks aid to Israel as enabling the Israelis to perpetrate violence
Contentions, yes; facts, no.
Rather than reporting as fact such one-sided allegations, PAW might engage
in more fair and balanced journalism by referring to opposite views.
Since when is the mission of PAW to promote ignorance and bigotry?
In the April 10, 2002, issue you run a "news
story" about the current wave of anti-Jewish fascism afflicting
Princeton, in which student protesters demonstrate in favor of Palestinian
terrorism. But your news story states as a factual truism that Israel
treats the Palestinians "inhumanely", I guess by allowing the
Palestinians to mass murder its civilians, and that there exists "Israeli
oppression of Palestinians", and that "the US enables the Israelis
to perpetrate violence against the Palestinians."
Apparently Orwellism has taken over PAW. With typical reversal of cause
and effect and of roles the sort totalitarians always promote.
Palestinians are mass murdering Israeli civilians, including several students
in my university, and a tiny minority of Princeton student bigots are
cheering them on, no doubt also cheering on bin Laden. Israelis are half-heartedly
trying to defend themselves from the terrorists. with military force.
I guess PAW is rooting for the Palestinian fascists and terrorists?
I was just a tad bit jolted by Sharon
Weiner's claim (April 10) that "by giving money to Israel, the
U.S. enables the Israelis to perpetrate violence against the Palestinians.."
Perhaps she made the statement on April Fools day. But, in deference to
Ms. Weiner's employer, The Woodrow Wilson School, I'd like to think that
she was still tabulating at press time the exact amount of direct and
indirect aid the PLO receives from the U.S.
Harvis Renny (April 10) is clearly just a mouthpiece for Sharon Weiner,
an alleged "research assistant" at the Wilson school, who apparently
in the business of organizing rallies to bring attention to the "Israeli
oppression (sic) of palestinians."
The goal of the rallies is simple propaganda as it is common knowledge
that the former Israeli government offered to retreat from the areas known
as the West Bank and Gaza. This offer was rejected by Arafat. It is also
common knowledge that 98% of Palestinians in these areas have been under
Palestinian Authority (PA) administrative control since the Olso Accords
Sharon Weiner is a pathetic charlatan --- the proof of which is that if
she were truly interested in the well-being of individual Palestinians
then she would be organizing ralles with the following goals:
1) express outrage at the PA's misuse of American and EU donor funds totalling
billions of dollars that have not been used to better Palestinians lives
but rather have been used to purchase suicide bombs and to enrich senior
2) express outrage at Islamic leaders not denouncing suicide bombers that
exclusively target civilians
3) express outrage at PA and other Arab countries encouraging the use
of suicide bombers
Small, noisy demonstrations supporting Yassir Arafat's "regime"
have recently received wide media coverage because they took place on
the Princeton campus. A quote
in the 4/10/02 issue of PAW states that "the Palestinians (i.e.,
Palestinian Arabs) need to be treated with the same justice, respect,
and self-determination that the citizens of Israel want for themselves."
Supported, as this would be, by essentially all parties to the conflict,
such a principle is merely rhetorical, and (to be charitable) intentionally
The supporters of such demonstrations are under-powered when it comes
to a true understanding of the conflict. Democracy, or self-determination,
depends on the ability and willingness of the populace to identify with
those in power. Lacking that, the only route to stability for a nation-state
is collusion between a powerful ruler and a clerical establishment in
whom the populace can find identification and the "vision thing."
In the lands in question, the clerics do not compromise with any rulers
other than clerical rulers and therein lies the instability of their nation-states.
Read Bernard Lewis, guys.