Palestinians Embraced Two-State Solution Three Years Ago

The author of the opinion-page article "New Voices for Palestine," Nov. 25, deems it newsworthy that the Palestinians at the Middle East peace talks are clean- shaven and moderate.He asserts that for the first time in 70 years Palestinians are demanding something less than "all or nothing." And he attributes this new moderation to Palestinian suffering during the intifadah years. Where in the world has he been? Certainly not talking to Palestinians, or listening to them. It has been more than three years since the Palestinian National Council overwhelmingly supported Yasser Arafat's move for a two-state solution. It was December 1988 when Mr. Arafat underscored that stance with a plea for a Palestinian statehood that "does not destroy the Israelis.... We want peace. We are committed to peace.... We want to live in our Palestinian state, and let live." Several months later, his deputy, Salah Khalaf, spoke eloquently (via videotape) to a peace conference in Israel: "Does any Israeli really believe in his heart that it is possible to destroy 5 million Palestinians? We have asked a similar question of ourselves and have concluded that we cannot destroy the Israeli people. The realistic solution, therefore, is that we live side by side and that we walk the path of peace." Anyone who visits the West Bank and Gaza finds a multitude of moderate, unshaven Arabs who have echoed these same sentiments throughout the intifadah years, in spite of Israel's continued colonial oppression. Gordon L. Shull, Wooster, Ohio Professor of Political Science, The College of Wooster

Landownership in Mexico As someone who has lived in rural Mexico studying the ejido communal land system, I find the front-page article "Mexican Agricultural Reforms Set Stage For a New Revolution," Nov. 21, very informative. Regarding the changes in rural land ownership outlined in the article: As Mexico continues to liberalize land ownership regulations, the livelihood of campesinos (poor farmers) will not improve commensurate to the broader economy. The changes in the ejido system proposed by Mexican President Salinas de Gortari will only further marginalize campesinos. The production from ejidos is far from internationally competitive and, as the article states, is not sufficient to feed the country. But blame should not be placed solely on the ejido system, nor on the land. The campesinos - with small plots and little modern equipment - are victims of economies of scale and unfair pricing, and lack the political clout necessary to change their situation. Therefore, many perfectly arable plots lie fallow as the title holders work the seasonal harvests in California or in the factories of Mexico City. Mr. Salinas's proposals do not take these aspects into account because their objective is not to help poor farmers - it is expansion of a modern market based on cheap labor. Without a doubt, the long outdated ejido provisions need reevaluation; yet the radical changes proposed by Salinas will only help dissolve campesino livelihood and expose the poor to the insensitivities of the emerging global market. The changes evolving from free-trade negotiations need to encompass the needs of the poor. Robbie Weis, Petaluma, Calif.

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