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Supporting Israel 

Mr. Spula’s use of “right wing” to describe the Israel Now and Forever Rally (“DC Protests Spring Eternal,” May 2) was inaccurate --- unless any pro-Israel activity is right wing in your dictionary. The participants from Rochester represented the entire spectrum of American politics. There were college students and community leaders from all stripes of political thought from across the country. They also represented a broad range of thought on how Israel should respond to the repeated attacks on civilians going about innocent civilian activities.

I was unable to get to Washington, but those who gathered to support Israel in Washington, or in Rochester, as we did most recently on May 2, agree on one concept. That is that the survival of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state is imperative for our own survival. Furthermore, Israel is the only nation in that entire region that reflects anything like American ideals and beliefs. All of the neighboring nations are despotic regimes of one stripe or other that have never had a democratically elected leader.

The Palestinian leaders are no less despotic. How else can we understand the Kangaroo Court that arraigned, tried, and convicted the six men who were sought to face charges in Israel? Yasser Arafat bought his own freedom on their backs. How else do we understand the murder in the streets of Palestinians by Palestinians for not being supportive of the regime of the Palestinian Liberation Organization?

It appears to me that in Mr. Spula's dictionary, supporting despotic, murderous regimes is left wing and good. Supporting democratically elected governments fighting to protect innocent civilians going about innocent activities in restaurants and supermarkets and celebrating the Passover Seder from terrorist attacks is right wing and bad.

The language of this discussion is loaded with charged words and words that say one thing and mean another. To the Palestinian leadership it is clear that there is a NO to any peace proposal that results in the survival of a viable Jewish State in the Middle East. That is not acceptable to me or to many other Americans, Jewish and Christian.

Paul S. Goldberg, East Avenue, Rochester

Jack Bradigan Spula responds: I watched the April 15 pro-Israel rally on cable television. I’m sure rally-goers held diverse views, but the event as organized was mostly right-wing. (Cf. www.israelrally.org.) The mission statement does call for “peace through negotiations,” yet it contends that “America and Israel are leading the fight against terrorism…” and that “all of us are at risk if we don’t defeat the global terror network.” There’s nothing about the occupation, but the statement does blames Arafat for the troubles. It also says Israel had “no choice but to take the steps necessary to protect itself” --- i.e. to unleash military attacks.

The roster of speakers, too, was dominated by big names on the right: Benjamin Netanyahu, Arlen Specter, Rudy Giuliani, Morton Zuckerman, Dick Armey, William Bennett. The Bush administration’s arch-hawk Paul Wolfowitz was there, too; he was booed when he said innocent Palestinians also had suffered and died. (See New York Times columnist Frank Rich’s May 11 critique of the incident.)

Yes, there were liberals on board, like AFL-CIO head John Sweeney, who said “all acts of terror” must end but didn’t specifically tackle the occupation. And Elie Wiesel? The man who can be so eloquent about the Holocaust again failed the Middle East. On the good side, Wiesel properly supported Israeli civilians and condemned the suicide bombers for their horrible crimes. Unlike Wolfowitz, though, he had no kinds words for the Palestinians. Instead he voiced “fervent support of President Bush’s war on terrorism” and praised Israel’s “valiant soldiers” at an odd moment --- when IDF had been rampaging through Palestinian communities.

My reference sources and experience tell me this about the Israel-Palestine situation: Both sides are committing atrocities; all parties must renounce violence and resume talks. Israel is occupying the emerging state of Palestine, and not the other way around; Israel has a legal and moral duty to end the occupation at once. The states of Israel and Palestine must live in equality side-by-side. The Palestinian refugees must be resettled or compensated; the same goes for Jewish refugees from other Middle East countries.

The best hope lies in an Israeli-Palestinian (and international) Gandhian pacifist movement. With this, I’m proud to say, I’ve taken a page from the Israeli left.

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