Americans and Arabs

Thank you for printing a well-done article (``Arab-Americans feel US backlash from TWA hijacking,'' July 8) on the anti-Semitism directed against Arabs in this country, a kind of racism that becomes even more blatant when certain events take place in the Middle East. It is hard for most Americans who have been fed a daily diet of Arab stereotypes in the media to picture Arabs as other than terrorists, sheikhs, or goatherders.

Ironically, the political cartoon your paper carried in the same issue pictured OPEC in the form of a sheikh. OPEC is not an Arab organization. Its members include such countries as Venezuela, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Iran. Hind Baki American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Santa Ana, Calif.

In late September 1983, a 16-inch shell from the US battleship New Jersey strayed from its intended target and smashed into the tiny village of Ainab, in the Shouf mountains of Lebanon. The explosion flattened an area the size of a football field and killed innocent villagers who used to be my neighbors. They were hardworking, honest, and friendly to the American families with summer homes above the village.

It is beyond the wildest imagination to conceive of a comparable situation in the US -- another country's battleship firing a shell without declaration of war. The shelling of Ainab presumably was a mistake, since the main target, the Druze fortifications in Souk al Gharb, was only three miles away. Yet no US apology, no talk of compensation for victims, not even a statement that an innocent village had been hit.

As a former visiting professor at the American University of Beirut, at a time when the US and Americans were widely admired, I agonize over the Middle East crisis.

If I had been in my old village of Ainab on the day of the shelling and had survived, surely I would have broadened my concept of terrorism, gained new insight into why young men enlist in terrorist organizations, and perhaps even have joined the villagers in calling the US by its Khomeini-coined epithet -- the Great Satan. Howard B. Leavitt Amherst, Mass.

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