Palestinian intifadah hurts entire Middle East

The Nov. 30 opinion piece by Geneive Abdo, "Islam nips at Arab leaders that have ties to Israel," was very sad indeed.

The Palestinians could have been well on the road to statehood, legitimacy, and economic growth, had Yasser Arafat accepted Ehud Barak's offer last summer.

What is worse now is witnessing the whole Muslim world lining up with the Palestinians. Instead of a peace with Israel that would lead to the possibility of a common market and economic development for the entire region, the Arab leaders (who, like Mr. Arafat know, they are disliked by their subjects) are sufficiently frightened by the mobs in the streets to suddenly "get religion."

Secular life is being threatened throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. I don't understand how Ms. Abdo can treat this public passion for the Palestinian intifadah as some sort of moral victory. It looks to me like Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded.

Laina Farhat-Holzman Aptos, Calif.

Israeli settlements: security or threat?

In his Nov. 28 opinion piece "Heading toward apartheid in Israel," Richard C. Hottelet recognizes that after the Six-Day War the Arabs adamantly refused Israeli peace feelers. He also takes due note of "Mr. Arafat's incompetent and corrupt government." Yet, still, he calls Israel's security concerns "a cry of wolf" and is particularly dismissive of Israeli settlements.

Israel has little choice but to maintain and expand security points in the face of unrelenting Palestinian hostility. Whether or not Israel is in "danger of being wiped off any map," over the past two months its citizens have been randomly attacked and killed, its religious sites wantonly desecrated, its extremely generous offer of final settlement terms categorically rejected.

The resolution of this century-old conflict lies exclusively in Arab hands. When really ready for peace, Palestinians will not lack for a willing partner. Right now, Israel has none.

Richard D. Wilkins Syracuse, N.Y.

I'd like to commend Richard C. Hottelet for his opinion piece. It is all too rare that we see pieces that provide a thought-provoking examination into the land mines that have dismembered decades worth of efforts for peace in the Middle East. As Mr. Hottelet conveyed, the never-ending establishment of Jewish settlements throughout the occupied territories is an absolute affront to peace.

Israel has offered only one self-serving hand in partnership, while using the other to oppress, dehumanize, and humiliate nearly 3 million Palestinians.

Nicole Hashem Brighton, Mass.

'Merit pay' lacks merit

Your Dec. 4 editorial "Merit pay for teachers" needs some clarification. I was one of those New York teachers who took to the streets a few weeks ago to protest the expiration of our contract.

Despite its expiration, teachers continue to work every day in crumbling buildings, with not enough supplies. Paperwork has gone through the roof. The average size of each class is over 30; parents and students give us disrespect each day. We work during the summer because our salaries don't keep up with inflation, yet we are responsible for educating the future leaders of America.

Merit pay in any form stinks. New York has more than 1.1 million students crowded into more than 1,100 buildings. There are top classes, middle classes, and bottom classes. The top classes perform well; the bottom classes perform below expectations. Would it be fair to punish a teacher because he or she has a low-performing class? I think not!

Robert Odabashian Lynbrook, N.Y.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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