In her Aug. 12 Opinion piece "Arafat and the Palestinian question," Helena Cobban makes a parallel between the US occupation of Iraq, which ended after only a few months, and Israel's "occupation" of the disputed territories, which has lasted for 37 years. That's false on several levels. First of all, the US went into Iraq to dislodge a government with which it had disagreements, but not one threatening to drive, or capable of driving, the US into the sea. The United States can leave Iraq, go back to Fortress America, and be safe.
Israel's very survival depends on keeping enemies from gaining too much power. The PLO still has not rescinded its founding covenant, which includes the total destruction of Israel. If Canada had such a clause in its Constitution, or attacked the United States, would the US not be justified in occupying and pacifying Canada? Israel holds these territories with more validity than the US holds the territory seized from Mexico in the 1840s.
Helena Cobban is right to call for an end to the status quo of condoning and financing Israel's 37-year occupation. The 9/11 commission recognized the high cost to American credibility and security that such blind support for Israel entails. Its recently published report warned: "America's policy choices have consequences.... American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world."
Unfortunately this understated message has not reached enough Americans to overcome political inertia and the role of special interests. Until more voters decide to weigh in on this critical issue, our counterproductive policies in the Middle East are unlikely to change.
The global response to the Israeli occupation must apply sticks, as well as offer carrots. We should remember that the demise of both the Berlin Wall and apartheid in South Africa required global resolve and a heavy hand.
The idea of a universal currency, the "dey," discussed by David R. Francis in his Aug. 12 article "The Esperanto of money" appeals to me. I spent a good part of this morning converting invoice values in euros and yen to dollars for the book service where I work. It would be nice not to spend time worrying about such conversions.
Still, as Francis says, that probably won't happen any time soon. It took about 70 years to get to the euro from the first proposal for a pan-European currency.
Donald J. Harlow
In the 1940s through the 1960s there actually was an Esperanto coinage. It was called "stelo" and the coins were minted in 1 stelo (bronze), 5 steloj (brass), 10 steloj (cupro-nickel) and a .900 silver 25 steloj.
Regarding the Aug. 9 article "A grievous loss, an unexpected letter, and a family found" that told the story of a Rwandan priest who was "adopted" by nuns after his family was murdered: Thank you for the story of Father Gakirage and how prayer has helped him to heal. Too often we hear only the evil done in the name of religions. But prayer, reverence, and love for our neighbors, which are the common threads that link all truly religious people, are rarely even noticed in the mainstream press.
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