Israel's Policy on Palestinian Universities

The opinion-page column ``Israel's Assault on Palestinian Universities,'' Dec. 18, accuses the Israeli government of committing a crime in closing four Palestinian universities in the territories. The author fails to mention that the reason Bir Zeit and other universities were closed was that they served as major centers of incitement to violence against Israel. Students, virtually all of whom belong to political organizations which advocate violence against Israel, often organized clashes.

The author does not discuss the intra-Palestinian fighting on the Bir Zeit campus which pitted pro- and anti-Arafat groups, as well as secular versus Islamic groups, against one another. This internecine violence has led the university administration itself to close the university on occasion.

Even such prominent Palestinian intellectuals as Sari Nusseibah, a Bir Zeit professor, have not been immune to student violence. In September 1987, Mr. Nusseibah was assaulted by students after it was disclosed that he met with Israeli representatives.

Prior to Israeli administration, no universities existed in the territories. While it is unfortunate that Palestinian students have had their studies disrupted, it's more unfortunate that they've chosen violence as a response to political differences.

Cheryl Cutler, Boston, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith

No doubt the author is trying to tell both sides of the story concerning the Palestinians, but he assumes that Israel is anxious to deprive the Palestinians of higher education. He overlooks the fact that the students distinguish themselves by regularly stoning Israeli cars. No wonder the universities had to be closed. James L. Jackson, McLean, Va.

Recent changes in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and South Africa have taught us that change is the only certainty; creating new institutional arrangements is messy; and a new order stands a better chance of succeeding if it is based on moral principles rather than force. A collective security system is a prerequisite for a safer, saner Middle East. To work, it must be preceded by a period in which Arab-Israeli confidence-building measures have been tried and have stood the test of time. These measures will not succeed without readjusting the chemistry of the region.

One strategy would be for Israel to immediately establish a Palestinian entity, offer to exchange ambassadors with Arab neighbors, offer to come to the aid of any Arab neighbor whose territory is attacked, and pledge a contribution to a to-be-formed Middle East economic development bank.

If Israel's neighbors reject the offer, a Palestinian entity will still have to be created without Israel's input. However, if Israel does nothing, an international conference should be convened to deal with regional issues, including the Palestinian problem and arms control. The focus would be on Arab-Israel symmetry, not on Israel's security. Yet Israel's security requires that she have the military ability to defend herself against an onslaught from the Arab world.

Dr. Rachel E. Golden, Evanston, Ill.

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