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November 18, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 6

Arafat and the Middle East: BC Faculty Offer Views

Assoc. Prof. Dennis Hale (Political Science), founder, Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel; spokesman, Citizens for Peace and Tolerance:

Arafat's legacy is and will continue to be a tragic one. He has taught his people to think that they can only be free when Israel is destroyed, and he was careful to ensure that the generation of Arab children born in the wake of the Oslo Accord would grow up to be haters. Palestinian Authority schools and television programs teach that Israel has no right to exist; that Jews are responsible for all the world's problems; that martyrdom is holy so long as Jews are killed. Whatever plans Arafat's successors might devise, therefore, they will have to deal with this horrific legacy of hatred for at least another generation. Yasser Arafat, unfortunately, will live long beyond the grave.

Associate Professor of Jewish Studies Rabbi Ruth Langer (Theology), associate director, Boston College Center for Christian-Jewish Learning:

To most in the Jewish community, Arafat was not only the "Godfather" of modern terrorism, but the one who consistently, throughout his long career, directed that terrorism towards the destruction of the state of Israel, causing countless innocent deaths and maimings and ultimately setting back, perhaps even destroying, his own people's hopes for peaceful and prosperous co-existence. Apparently, he viewed even the Oslo accords as a step towards the destruction of Israel, never educating his people for peace or changing internal Palestinian official rhetoric about Israel. While Judaism teaches not to rejoice at the downfall of an enemy, it also makes no requirement that we mourn one either.

Arafat's death creates an opportunity for revisioning and reforming Palestinian leadership. From a Jewish perspective, I pray that this will be a leadership dedicated to serving the best interests of its people: to ceasing corruption so that international largesse will serve its intended recipients; to creating internal law and order so that Palestinian society can function; to endings the culture of victimhood that has kept Palestinians in refugee camps for an unprecedented 56 years yearning for the destruction of Israel; to ending terrorism so that negotiations can become possible; and to working wholeheartedly for peaceful coexistence with Israel.

There is much more that can and perhaps should be said. The situation is deeply complex, and I believe that to ignore these complexities is to be dangerously naive. None of the needed changes is simple, achieved just by democratic elections or by drawing a line of demarcation with Israel - and where that should be is not simple either, as the only previous border is only the 1948 ceasefire line, not a viable border. A full solution also involves the other countries of the Middle East and of the Arab world, most of whom remain in a state of war with Israel, funding terrorism against her.

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