Public Comment

Commentary: Accurate Information Important for Intelligent Discussion

By Tracie de Angelis Salim
Tuesday June 05, 2007

Personal attacks will not help make a point; rather, they dilute from the intention of making a larger point speak loudly. While Carmel Hara’s letter to the editor may be an isolated instance of a personal attack on Joanna Graham, sadly the pages of the Daily Planet continue to be used as a forum for assault on character rather than a place for intelligent discourse. I find a great opportunity within his letter to make a larger point. 

Carmel Hara writes about the work of the founder and president of the Jewish Peace Lobby, Jerome Segal. Dr. Segal’s work is to be commended as he is an expert on Palestinian/Israeli relations and was one of the first American Jews to meet with the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization when based in Tunis. However, I am not sure I understand Mr. Hara’s point. He mentions a piece that Dr. Segal wrote that he refers to as “Final Status in a new era” and “Who’s Afraid of 194” and then he puts “the Saudi Peace Initiative” in parentheses. Perhaps this was an editorial mistake, but I want to turn it into an opportunity to talk about both the Saudi Peace Initiative and U.N. Resolution 194, which are two different things. The Saudi Peace Initiative was created in 2002 and U.N. resolution 194 has been on the books since December 1948. 

U.N. resolution 194 is consistent with International Law. It states in the 11th paragraph "the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." This basic right is still being denied. In 2005, according to the Badil Resource center, there were approximately 7.2 million Palestinian refugees, equivalent to 74 percent of the entire Palestinian population which is estimated at 9.7 million worldwide. This resolution has been affirmed over 130 times, with universal consensus except for the United States and Israel. 

The Saudi Peace Initiative of 2002 calls for the return of the refugees, full withdrawal of the occupied territories, normal relations with Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital for Palestine. This focus of the initiative holds a clear principle: land for peace. However, it is not as basic as calling for land for peace because both the issue of the refugees and Jerusalem are the real sticking points. And these are the issues that continually get pushed aside.  

It is important for people interested in this issue to have accurate and detailed information about the problem from many angles. The question of a peaceful resolution to this issue is likely one of the most complex in history; because of this, an easy answer is impossible. I appreciate all the passionate discourse that goes into letter writing when it comes to this topic. It seems that no two people agree on the best road to freedom for all in the region. But a best first step would be for all of us who live outside the region to get a wide, varied and balanced perspective. We may not always agree on history or on what is “fair.” But, I would venture to say that if we could put history aside and look at the human cost of the illegal Israeli occupation on Palestinian land and at the human cost of tactics from the militant groups in Gaza and the West Bank, we could agree on one thing: peace in Palestine/Israel is step number one for peace in all of the Middle East.  

Personal attacks here at home have no place in a dialogue when the real intention of putting thought to pen and paper is to open hearts and minds to an issue that affects all humans who care about justice. 


Tracie de Angelis Salim is a Berkeley resident.