Letters

Questioning Israel as a 'plucky democracy' and 'hard-line' state

Regarding the Aug. 14 article, "Why Bush embraces Israel's hard line": What the article does not describe is the nature of this hard line; apparently it requires no definition or explanation because it is self-evident and indisputable. But I wonder.

Is Israel's readiness in principle for a two-state solution an example? Does the evacuation of over 8,000 Israeli citizens from the Gaza Strip constitute a hard line? Or Prime Minister Olmert's proposed disengagement from the West Bank, a politically charged move supported by the Israeli electorate that voted Mr. Olmert into power? Not exactly a hard line. When, just over a month ago, Hizbullah violated an internationally recognized border, kidnapped two soldiers and killed another eight, and fired salvos of rockets at Israeli civilians, Israel responded to this act of war with force. Is that perhaps the elusive hard line?
Leo Taubes
Jerusalem

Regarding the Aug. 14 article on Bush's support for Israel: According to the article administration supporters say that Americans generally see Israel as a plucky democracy in a sea of autocracies. If this is the case, perhaps Americans need to think a bit more. Israel has long defined itself as a Jewish state. This presents a quandary. In order to remain a Jewish state, it would have to diminish the claims of citizenship and the vote of any other faith or ethnic group that might upset that Jewish dominance.

In the view of most of the world, this would make Israel at best a limited democracy after the manner of Saudi Arabia, which denies the vote to women, or the USSR, which allowed only members of the Communist Party to vote. Of course, once upon a time, US voters were only white males who owned property, including other human beings. On the other hand, if Israel became what most of the world now considers to be a truly inclusive democracy, it would ultimately cease to be a Jewish state.
Debra L. Wiley
Inglewood, Calif.

Study abroads only for mature students


Regarding your Aug. 16 editorial, "Go to college, see the world": Not so fast! I appreciate your optimism, but as a professor and study-abroad coordinator since the 1960s, I have seen thousands upon thousands of students heading abroad to study.

In the "old days," when it was the language majors who studied abroad, things went relatively smoothly because those students were on their junior-year-abroad program, with at least four semesters of the language and culture studies under their belts. They were prepared to live in the foreign community and had a positive study-abroad experience.

Today, however, many universities, my own included (San Diego State University), require that students in many majors participate in study-abroad experiences.

Too many of these students have little or no preparation on how to survive and thrive abroad, let alone have a productive academic experience. A couple of short meetings with an adviser before they leave does little.

They do not communicate well or at all in the language of their chosen country and can have horrible experiences that frequently turn out to be counterproductive and fuel the ugly American stereotype we have suffered for so long.

These students become basic tourists and spend most of their time partying. They neither represent their country nor their university well.

Minimum language and culture preparation are essential for a positive academic experience.
Ronald Young
San Diego

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.

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