In the Middle East conflict, which side does history favor?
Regarding his Aug. 1 Opinion piece, "Hizbullah's attacks stem from Israeli incursions into Lebanon": Anders Strindberg cites my work in support of his argument that Israel is committing aggression in Lebanon, as it did in 1947-48 Palestine.
This is nonsense. Both sides have a rightful claim to Palestine/the Land of Israel as "their" land. This was the basis for the UN General Assembly resolution of November 1947, which decided on a compromise of two states, one Palestinian-Arab, the other Jewish. The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states rejected the compromise and launched a war of aggression against the newborn Jewish state, with the aim of destroying it. They lost, and 700,000 Arabs became refugees.
In Lebanon, things are even more clear-cut. Israel withdrew to the international border, as posited by the UN, in 2000 – and three weeks ago Hizbullah attacked Israel with rockets and mortars and killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two. This attack was but the last in a series that has killed Israeli civilians and soldiers since 2000, and the Lebanese government has done nothing to curb or disarm Hizbullah, as the international community has prodded it to do. Israel has every right to fight back, to try to destroy Hizbullah, a cancer on the Lebanese body politic.
Professor of Middle East history,
Regarding Anders Strindberg's Aug. 1 Opinion piece: How refreshing to read an account of the Arab/Israeli conflict that takes into account the sorrowful treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis for the past 50 years. After living for 20 years in the Middle East myself, I began to believe that the Palestinians are very patient people.
There are no "good guys in white hats" in this conflict. Wrongs of the past on both sides must be openly acknowledged and redressed. I believe that a "truth and reconciliation" program such as South Africa has used to rid itself of its past, will ultimately be needed in Israel and Palestine.
Although there is some merit to Brendan O'Neill's claim in his July 24 Opinion piece, "Throwing our judicial junk in Britain's backyard (or courts)," that Britain's defamation laws are too favorable to a plaintiff, and thus can put a chill on free speech, he paints with too broad a brush if he is arguing that Britain's law should be more like America's.
America's defamation laws have caused debate, discourse, journalism, and scholarship to devolve into a libel and slander circus, such that there is almost no longer such a thing as truth or defamation. Too much dialogue (especially politics and news) has simply turned to noise, nonsense, spin, and verbal anarchy. Words lose their meanings. Being clever wins the day over wisdom.
Lying has become the currency of the realm, and reputation means nothing. Although I strongly defend free speech and am proud it is first among our Bill of Rights, there are few absolutes in life, and somewhere along the line, rights have to come with commensurate responsibilities. If people do not solve the problem – provide a remedy – eventually nature will or, like here, those afflicted will go elsewhere.
Like many, many things in life, the answer is found in the middle. It appears Britain's defamation laws do need to be relaxed, while those in America need to be contracted, or certainly recalibrated.
Gary L. Zerman
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.
Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.