Too optimistic on Mideast peace?

Both your editorial cartoon of July 14 and your opinion piece of July 16 ("Mideast peace prospects high") are much too optimistic about the commitment to peace of newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Barak opposes the right of return to their homeland for Palestinian refugees from the war of 1948, opposes the return by Israel to the borders of 1967, and opposes dismantling the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. His insistence on Israeli control over all of Jerusalem precludes rights for Palestinian Christians and Muslims, especially those who reside in Jerusalem.

As leader of the opposition Labor Party, Barak did not oppose the systematic violation of human rights by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Violations included torture, confiscation of land, demolition of homes, collective punishment, diversion of scarce water resources, and confiscation of residency permits of Palestinian Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem.

Indeed, B'Tselem, Israel's leading human rights group, concludes that regarding Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Israeli governments have been violating most of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rather than naive optimism regarding Barak's intentions, journalists (and politicians) ought to ask Barak if he intends for Israel to finally adhere to international law and human rights conventions. Only then will a just Palestinian-Israeli peace be possible and optimism warranted.

Edmund R. Hanauer, Framingham, Mass.

Executive director, Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel

Religion, science, and secularism

Your opinion article "Science vs. religion" attempts to analyze which of the two is more dangerous (July 20). A better question might be, "Which is worse, religion or secularism?" These are more easily compared. And in our era, secularists are offering their philosophy, morals, and ethics as a substitute for religious values.

There is a substantial threat to our society if we are beguiled by secularism. Secular leaders have caused more damage, destruction, mayhem, and death in the past 50 years than all the religious conflicts have caused since the beginning of history. Asking questions about the relative dangers of religion and science diverts attention from the greater danger that can come if we continue our regression into a secular culture. The question that you should address to your readers is this: "Which is better, a religious or a secular society?" That could inspire a discussion leading to a better answer to the question underlying this discussion. That is, "Where should we turn for direction and leadership, the religious or the secular?"

I believe the answer is obvious.

Rev. Leonard Schneider, White Plains, N.Y.

College advisers for the rest of us

Your story on independent college counselors leaves an important question unanswered: What kind of college counseling exists for those parents and students who cannot afford an independent adviser? ("Trying to find the right college? Don't go it alone," July 13).

As an independent college counselor, I know I play an important role in the lives of many students. Regardless of how much money they have or who is advising them, all parents and students would do well to invest 33 cents in a letter to their school principal encouraging continued support of school counselors' efforts to help all students realize their full potential.

Patrick J. O'Connor, Royal Oak, Mich.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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