Mutual Risk-Taking for Peace in Middle East
Regarding the article ``US Jews, Arabs Now Find Some Common Ground,'' Oct. 19: The author was correct in observing that mainstream Arab-American and Jewish-American organizations and leaders have developed new relationships with the signing of the Israel-PLO accord in Washington.
The accord created a new political reality and those of us who want to support this invigorated peace process find ourselves in uncharted waters: learning a new language, taking on new priorities, and discovering a new center in the Middle East policy debate. While still defending principles we hold dear, we have also become invested in strengthening each other's position to maintain the integrity of the peace accords.
A subtext to this story is the struggle now being waged within each of our communities between those who support this new process and those who do not. It is in this context that I must share my full views on the following statement of mine, which was correctly quoted in the article mentioned above: ``I have a stake in seeing that Israel's aid does not get cut. Anybody who raises the question of cutting aid to Israel puts the peace process at risk.''
What I said in full was that both Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans must now become invested in promoting confidence-building with each other. While I do not believe that the large foreign aid allotment to Israel can be justified given the context of the realities of the post-cold-war world or other pressing humanitarian problems crying out for US assistance, I also know that any effort to cut aid to Israel will put the Labor government in Israel and the peace process itself in danger. Arab-Americans, therefore, must not take any steps that might jeopardize peace. At the same time, I noted that it is equally important for American Jews to speak out against human rights violations in the still occupied territories. The longer Israel persists in this behavior, the more vulnerable the Palestinian leadership will be to opponents of peace.
Both Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans must have a stake in strengthening the position of each other's leaders, who have taken risks for peace. This, I believe, is the new thinking that must shape our work if peace is to become a reality. James J. Zogby, Washington, D.C. President, Arab American Institute
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