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MIDDLE EAST: Israel and the Palestinians

Ex parte statements are by their very nature unbalanced and often vehement. That is especially true of discussions about Israel and the Arab world. To calm such discussions down, we must resort to the quality of life studies discussed in a previous posting. I would be grateful if WAISers would study them and send me a summary of what they say about Israel and the surrounding countries. I would like to know if you think the UN assessments are fair, since the UN may not wish to offend member states. I am suspicious of the World Bank study of Cuban education because it was made in cooperation with the Cuban Ministry of Education.

Having said that, let me admit my own "bias." In another measured defense of Israel, Siegfried Ramler describes Israel as a "vibrant" democracy. "Vibrant" may not be the right word, but it certainly is a democracy, especially in comparison with the neighboring countries.I know neither Hebrew nor Arabic, but I feel much more at home in Israel than in Arab countries because it is really a transplanted part of the West.

Siegfried says that "It serves no purpose to characterize the foundation of the Israeli state as having been inspired by terrorists. As in the case of Palestinian Arabs, such designations are in the mind of the beholder. Who is seen by one as a terrorist, is seen by the other as a freedom fighter." This is true to some extent. When yesterday terrorists were released from the Maze prison near Belfast, each side welcomed its prisoners as heroes, disgusting the families of the victims. Basque ETA and Corsican terrorists view themselves as freedom fighters, but the world does not. Terrorists are terrorists if they are a minority defying the wish of the majority.

Siegfried says "Israel is a dynamic democracy in the Middle East, with a strong social and economic infrastructure, and a potential for supporting growth throughout the region." Very true, if this could be made to work. Siegfried hopes against hope. The Camp David talks, he says, "should not be seen as a failure. When antagonists sit down to face the issues which divide them, when they come to understand the political and regional pressures bearing down on each side, when they approach options for compromise - even if they cannot yet accept them - there is progress towards harmonious co-existence. In this sense the talks have not collapsed - they are a milestone on the road to peace." Very true, but there is no certitude that the two parties will follow this road. Other possibilities are that the present hostilities will continue, or, the worst scenario, that they will degenerate into a real war, possible a world war.

Ronald Hilton - 7/28/00