Israeli and Palestinian fears and desires are equally just

Abdul-Latif Khaled's Dec. 21 Opinion piece, "The 'olive branch' that ought to cross the wall," was reassuring insofar as it sheds light on a segment of Palestinian society that is ready to come to resolution or, at the very least, an understanding of the current and future relationship of two familial cultures.

I have a great deal of empathy for the people and situation Mr. Khaled talks about. This is a problem that both cultures are responsible for having created.

I don't know of any reasonable-minded person who doesn't see the need for a declared and actualized Palestinian state and also see that its creation would subvert further destruction and chaos in the world by both Islamic and Jewish fundamentalists.

Khaled's plea for justice and for the ability of Palestinians to live and coexist with Israelis on a land that embodies their history is just and right. But their sorrow, which includes the countless number of sons and daughters they've sent to war, is no greater or more righteous than that of a family living in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Their fear, as well as their resoluteness to survive, is equal; but no less just.

An aide to the late Yasser Arafat once said to me, "Do you know why this conflict is so violent? Because we're family ... and fights within the family are always bloody."
Dori Keller
Los Angeles

Natural, ancient alternatives to perfume

After reading the Dec. 16 article, "Downstream dangers of your perfume," I wanted to mention some possible alternatives to perfumes, toothpaste, soaps, etc., that have been used for centuries in regions of the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia, and that are still used.

The substitute for toothpaste is miswak, or teeth-cleaning sticks. This is also spiritually significant for Muslims, as the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing upon him) used these sticks regularly.

One substitute for modern perfumes is to use the scented natural oils commonly referred to as atar or itar, depending on which part of the Middle East or South Asia you are from.

As for soap or shampoo, you can use a clay called meth in the Sindhi language. This is a special clay that comes from Multan in Pakistan.

There are several other such substitutes for cosmetics one can use. The list is endless.
Abdulrahman Rafiq
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Irony in US foreign policy

The Dec. 23 article "Who's influencing Ukraine's vote" and John Hughes's Dec. 22 Opinion piece, "Can Castro avoid democracy?" reveal considerable irony as well as fundamental hypocrisy in United States foreign policy.

The first article quotes Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas as citing the US expenditure of $60 million to support the "orange revolution" in Ukraine, while Mr. Hughes decries the imprisonment of Cuban dissidents (who were also convicted of accepting money from the US government to undermine the government in Cuba). Imagine the response if Chinese agents had been caught spending similar money to influence last month's election in the US.

Hughes's Opinion piece reveals little first-hand acquaintance with the situation in Cuba. We have traveled widely in Cuba, officially, several times in the past four years as scientists and teachers with college classes of American students.

While it is true that the Cuban people are suffering some hardships because of the US embargo, there is more freedom there than implied in Hughes's distorted report.
Gerald Smith
Chelsea, Mich.
Catherine Badgley

University of Michigan

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