Letter to the Editor: Israelis more interested in negotiating

Last week, Mohammad Junaid Alam responded (“Israelis instigated, Palestinians reacted,” Feb. 22) to a letter I wrote (“Criticism of Hamas shouldn’t surprise,” Feb. 15) that criticized a letter he wrote (“Hamas’ Rise Gave Times Editorials Bite,” Feb. 8). I’d like to set the record straight regarding several of his inflammatory claims and refocus the discussion on the important issues.

When arguing about the meaning of war deaths in a conflict, Alam completely misses the point and misrepresents my argument by ripping it from proper context. This sort of intellectual dishonesty is unbecoming and childish in a serious debate. I stated, “War deaths and weapon counts tell us nothing of which side is ‘right’ or has a moral high ground.” Alam intentionally misrepresents this statement by writing, “After magically deciding that casualty figures ‘tell us nothing,’ Tarkoff proceeds. …”

Alam continues by attacking my World War II statistics as misleading. Of course, these statistics are misleading, just as his are. In the first nine months of 2005, more Palesti-nians were killed by other Palesti-nians than by Israelis. Would Alam interpret this to mean Israel was “in the right” for those nine months?

Alam continues by insinuating that I don’t have a grasp on history because I don’t agree with his viewpoint. He states that “Israeli military bombings and other assaults precede any Palestinian bombings by about 50 years.” Alam is trying to trick the reader again by focusing on a single Palestinian tactic: suicide bombing.

Interestingly, Palestinian suicide bombings began the same year as Israel’s attempt to make peace with the Oslo Accords.

In fact, in the Arab Riots of 1920, 1921 and 1929, scores of Jewish civilians were killed and hundreds injured by Arabs living in mandated Palestine. The term “Palestinian” has come to refer exclusively to these Arabs only in the last 50 years. The point is, while suicide bombings are new, Palestinian killing of civilians is an age-old practice.

Alam further asserts that a “Palestinian state does not exist precisely because Israel has prevented its creation.” In fact, when the United Nations proposed The Partition Plan in 1947, it was accepted by the Jews. This two-state solution was rejected by the Arabs, who turned instead to violence. According to historian Martin Gilbert, “From the moment of the United Nations vote, Arab terrorists and armed bands attacked Jewish men, women and children all over the country, killing 80 Jews in the 12 days following the vote.” When the war was over, Jordan and Egypt took over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively.

Another opportunity for a Palestinian State was trounced after the Six Day War in 1967. Israel issued a statement that it was prepared to negotiate everything. The Arab world’s answer, given from the Khartoum summit in Sudan, was resounding. “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” Even today, the Palestinians could declare a state in the Gaza Strip. There are no Israelis there to “prevent” its creation, but the Palestinians either choose not to, or are too busy infighting to undertake such an endeavor.

It is impossible to deal with all of Alam’s allegations against Israel in a commentary. However, the inflammatory statement by former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges requires a response. Hedge’s uncorroborated “Gaza Diary,” containing allegations of Israeli soldiers playing games with the lives of Palestinian children, has been factually ripped to shreds by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America. Hedge’s former colleague, Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, writes, “to suggest that Israel is slaughtering Palestinians for sport, as if a war were not going on there, which Israel did not court, in which civilians on both sides are being killed … is just a lie.” No matter how many times a lie is repeated on the Internet, it is still a lie.

In all this debate, the major points have been missed. Israel’s security fence, despite the nonbinding opinion of the International Court, has drastically cut casualties on both sides. It makes terrorist infiltration more difficult and, like any country, Israel is more inclined to negotiate when its civilians are not being slaughtered by the dozens. Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, but rockets from Gaza continue to terrorize Israelis.

Israel is a month away from an election, Kadima, the new centrist party, is favored to win. As always, the Arab citizens of Israel will vote and have their voices heard in the government. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have just elected Hamas into power, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. It is my sincerest hope that the Palestinians will soon experience buyer’s remorse and elect a government interested in negotiating a peaceful solution rather than one bent on destroying Israel. When that time comes, I imagine Israel will be ready and waiting on the other side of the fence.

– Joe Tarkoff is a senior electrical and computer engineering major.

Leave a Reply