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Some Solutions Are No Solution At All

Aimee Smith’s one-sided Middle East story-telling is a naive, insensitive, and impractical point of view on a complex problem [“How to Bring Peaceful Coexistence Back to the Middle East,” Feb. 17]. To Ms. Smith, anyone who supports Israel must be someone with “senseless devotion.” She purports to present an objective history of the Middle East problem and proposes to solve it in a surprisingly simple way. The thing is, Ms. Smith suffers from an extreme case of “senseless devotion” to her own cause. Objectivity and productive discourse are last on her list.

One could easily expose the many ways in which Ms. Smith’s account is deficient. One could point out that every Israeli annexation was the result of armed conflict caused at least in part by neighboring Arab countries, first in 1948, then in 1967, then 1973. One could mention the roughly 870,000 Jewish refugees, expelled from neighboring Arab countries at the time of Israel’s creation, who somehow don’t get factored into the refugee discussion (see the 2003 Conference: “Forgotten Refugees: Jews Expelled from Arab Countries” at One should be outraged by the tasteless and revisionist comparison of Zionism, a movement to establish a safe homeland for Jews, to Nazism, a movement that led to the brutal and systematic murder of six million Jews (one third of all Jews in the world at the time).

But that is stooping to Ms. Smith’s irresponsible, simplistic level of rhetoric instead of encouraging a realistic and fair direction for peace in the Middle East. Let’s leave the intricate history lesson to a format that permits more than 500-word, oversimplified arguments. Let’s instead focus on where we go from here, from the point of view of both Palestinians and Israelis.

The Middle East has significant problems, and all sides deserve significant blame. The senseless killings are heartbreaking and demand that we all get involved immediately in helping the region find a lasting peace. But to propose a solution that involves eradicating one of the parties is naive at best, and criminal at worst.

Israel consists of six million Jews surrounded by hostile countries whose inhabitants number in excess of 200 million and whose land area is approximately 400 times larger than Israel. Given the implicit support of these countries for the PLO’s stated goal to destroy Israel -- specifically Article 21 of the PLO Charter, which calls for the armed liberation of “all of Palestine” -- it’s understandable that Israeli Jews feel the need to protect this small safehaven. In this context, Ms. Smith’s solution is nothing less than the true ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews in the Middle East.

Palestinians have long been mistreated by nations the world over, like pawns used for unrelated political ends by all sides. They have never had their own state. Many have been persecuted and killed by Israelis, Lebanese, and Jordanians -- and that’s just the 20th century. It is certainly understandable that Palestinians aspire to having a country of their own where they can be first-class citizens for the first time in history. They would likely build the region’s first Arab democracy, a home where they can pursue their dreams of all free people.

Not surprisingly, Israelis and Palestinians have similar goals. We should request and require that all who participate in negotiations and peace efforts begin with this affirmation: that Palestinians and Israelis alike are entitled to a land of their own where they can live in peace, recognized by the world and protected as sovereign entities. Anything less is unacceptable. Anything less is unacceptable.

Certain individuals (on both sides) refuse this compromise. Their way is right while the other way is evil and intolerant. Their victory must be crushing: the other side must lose. That is the kind of solution Ms Smith proposes: the “dismantling” of the opposing side in order to return to some mythical paradise she believes her side would offer.

There is no such paradise. The blame and the responsibility to become better neighbors lie with both parties. Beneath all the partial truths, exaggerations, and false metaphors of Ms. Smith’s opinion article lies an unforgiving approach that is far from a solution: it’s part of the problem.

Ben Adida G

[LTE]Explaining MIT’s Graduate Drop[body]
The article “Grad Applications Dwindle As Fewer Foreigners Apply” suggests as the most likely reason for the drop in the number of international applications reactions to regulations for foreign visitors created or enforced after Sept. 11 [Feb. 20]. It seems to me that these are perhaps rather symptoms of a deeper, underlying problem which explains why fewer foreign students even try to apply for grad school in the United States. The problem may be that the policies of the U.S. government over the last years have had the unfortunate effect of creating the cliche of a nationalistic and militarized society. This stands in sharp contrast to the traditional perception of the United States as an open-minded and free society.
Still, this does not fully explain why MIT also seems to struggle with these consequences. Thanks to its pronounced international character, its fascinating students and faculty, and its dedication to the frontiers of science and engineering, one would expect it to be worldwide an outstanding symbol of successful and free academia beyond all political turmoil. What is wrong, then?
What could possibly infringe on the attractiveness of MIT among international students? I wonder if the close ties between parts of MIT’s research and the military via funding and institutions like the “Institute for Soldier Nanotechnoloy” may be an answer to this question.
Sebastian Raupach G[sig]