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Thursday May 24, 2001

Editor to readers 

Dear Readers: 

Thank-you for your many passionate letters. We print as many as we can and generally in the order in which we receive them. Shorter ones are more likely to run. Those over 650 words will not run. Long letters are likely to be cut. We attempt to verify facts, especially statements on local issues, and try not to print false statements, though we cannot fact check letters as we might our articles. 

Above all, we will not print racist or bigoted statements, or generalities about peoples of one or another belief, religion, nationality or origin. We also ask you to refrain from attacking and belittling the letter-writer whose opinion you are opposing, but attack the opinion itself. 

We reserve the right to edit letters. 


Judith Scherr, editor 


Others declared war on Israel 


In his letter, Will Youmans (“Israel has hurt hope for peace”, May 21) made some claims that seem to have been fabricated. Israel did not want war in 1948. Israel declared a state and five Arab countries declared war. Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq attacked Israel while Azzam Pasha, the Secretary-General of the Arab League declared that “this will be a war of extermination.” Youmans does not recall the similar number of Jewish refugees that were expelled from their homes in Arab states circa 1948. An Egyptian minister called “all Jews Zionists and enemies of the state”.  

These Jews were resettled in Israel, while the Arab states failed to absorb their own brethren who chose to leave Israel after its independence. Arabs were asked to stay, but they opted to leave. On April 22 1948, the mufti-dominated Arab leaders urged “all Arabs to leave the city.” 

The British police reported on April 26, 1948, that “every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay.” While Israel absorbed many refugees, the Arab states failed to do so, despite their vast land and wealth. 

I didn’t understand how Youmans jumped from the number of 750,000 to 5 million refugees. The majority of refugees have settled in different countries, and refuge isn’t hereditary. Do I consider myself a Hungarian refugee? 

Youmans claims that Daryl Kutzstein “surely did not witness” the anti-Semitic incidents during the Students for Justice in Palestine rally at Wheeler hall, therefore they didn’t happen. Well Mr. Youmans, I was there, and I saw it all. Many people saw and heard the hate. 

Youmans claims that Israel is compromising U.N. resolution 242. In fact, the resolution states that Israel should withdraw from territories, and not ‘the’ territories. The omission of the word ‘the’ enables Israel to withdraw from the territory she sees fit for negotiating peace. In return, the neighboring states must end their belligerency, and acknowledge Israel, who will be able to live “within secure boundaries free from threats.” This has not happened. Israel was willing to withdraw from 95 percent of the territories (while annexing an additional 5 percent of Israel proper) in return for peace. In return, the Palestinians chose to resort to violence. It is no surprise that Israel is not willing to return to the negotiating table while being attacked. 


Devora M Liss 



Arab states declared war first 


I would like to correct a few details Mr. Youmans seems to have ‘forgotten.’ (Israel has hurt hopes for peace, May 21st). In 1948 Israel declared a state and immediately extended its hand in peace to its neighbors.  

The Arab states were the ones to initiate the attack on the new-born state. 

Mr. Youmans is wrong, when referring to Mr. Kutzstien’s statement “We must move from asking who did what and when.” This is a grown-up world. We live in the present. We have to see what can be done today and tomorrow, not yesterday. 

Mr. Youmans finds it hard to negotiate with a government which supposedly “will not even acknowledge its actions,” while holding Israel responsible for the plight of the refugees, who were created by the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment. How can Israel be expected to make peace with someone who doesn’t even recognize its existence? 

Mr. Youmans might want to take a good look at UN resolution 242. As it states that Israel should give back parts of the territories as she sees fit, it also requires her neighbors to come to terms with her existence, halt terror and stop their belligerency. 

Mr. Youmans is telling a partial story. The Israeli government wanted peace, offered Mr. Arafat a viable state that the Palestinians rejected, turning to violence instead of dialogue. 


Sura Rahman 




Beth El good, project bad 


It seems like you can’t open a local newspaper these days without reading about what a great organization Beth El is: they do volunteer work, they feed the homeless, they educate their children, and so on.  

The point of these letters is that Beth El should be able to build their controversial new synagogue/school/social center at 1301 Oxford Street in the face of opposition from many neighbors, many others individuals in Berkeley and beyond, and the local chapters of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and a host of other environmental organizations.  

What is missing from these letters is the connection between the assertion “Beth El does a lot of good things” and the conclusion “therefore they should be able to build their project.” I’m not sure what that connection is supposed to be, but I’ve thought of a few possibilities: 

Perhaps the point is that Beth El is an asset to the community, but will have to leave if not allowed to build their current project. But that doesn’t make sense: when a some project opponents suggested that a few alternative sites might be more suitable for Beth El’s planned expansion, Beth El leaders called them “offensive” for trying to “kick 

Beth El out of the neighborhood.” Beth El doesn’t just want to stay in the neighborhood, they won’t even consider a move. If Beth El’s plans are denied, they will continue to be a community asset, just as they are now.  

Or maybe the point is that Beth El is such a good organization that anything they do must be good, so the opponents of the current plan must be misguided and there’s not really anything wrong with the plan. But that’s wrong too. Opponents understand exactly what the current plan calls for and Beth El gave presentations to environmental organizations which nevertheless oppose the plan. Organizations that oppose the current plan include the Sierra Club (San Francisco Bay Chapter), Alameda Creeks Alliance, Friends of Five Creeks, Urban Creeks Council, Center for Biological Diversity, International Rivers Network, Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative, Eco-City Builders, Berkeley Eco-House, California Oak Foundation, and the Golden Gate Chapter of the Audubon Society. 

So maybe the point is that Beth El members are good, while opponents of the project are bad; Beth El should be rewarded by being allowed to build its project, while opponents should be punished by having the project forced on them. I hope that’s not the argument either.  

Opponents of the project are not evil. Like Beth El, we educate our children, donate money and time to help others, and so on. The list of organizations in the previous paragraph should speak for itself.  

So perhaps the argument is that Beth El has done a lot of good things, so even if they do something bad, they’re still ahead on points.  


Phillip Price