Mar 052008
Authors: Guest columnist Shirit Stern

Contrary to Mary Ackerson’s opinion, Israel is a crucial ally to the United States’ objective of fighting terrorism.

Yes, there have been 54 Palestinians killed in the violence, and five Israelis. Countless numbers of both Palestinians and Israelis have been wounded, and thousands of people’s daily lives have been affected by the ensuing violence.

We are seeing attacks and retaliation from both sides, yet the issue at hand is how to stop the violence and how to resume negotiations for a peaceful solution.

A major roadblock in solving the dispute is the currently divided leadership of the Palestinian people.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the Fatah party is in control of the West Bank. However, Ismail Haniyah, the Hamas leader, is in control of the Gaza Strip after violently taking leadership from the Fatah party last June.

Negotiations between the Israeli government and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority still may not produce any direct effect on what occurs in the Gaza Strip since Abbas himself has refused to speak to Hamas unless it gives up control of Gaza.

According to an official spokesperson for Mr. Abbas, he has recently tried “to work towards a mutual cease-fire with Israel” without mentioning Hamas explicitly, though that may or may not prove effective.

In their article “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt make a point as to the effectiveness of the Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

It is by no means a substantial claim to say this lobbying group is “skewing” the American perception of the conflict.

The U.S. has its divested interest in Israel in maintaining a partnership with the only democracy in the Middle East, and in supporting a nation that embodies humanitarian ideals and human rights.

Israel aims to attack militants, not civilians. Contrary to Mearsheimer and Walt’s view, terrorism is created from hate and the teaching of hate.

Teaching young children to hate with books, songs and the idolization of martyrs who are brave enough to kill others and themselves for their ideals are what breed terrorism.

Terrorism can be influenced and perpetuated by conditions lacking in adequate power, water and leadership, however that responsibility does not lie on Israel alone. The Gaza Strip has been under Palestinian control since Israel withdrew from Gaza in August of 2005, handing over the land and leadership to the Palestinians. This causes the humanitarian concerns in the Gaza Strip to be a responsibility of the Palestinian leadership.

If we are to truly watch what is going on as Ackerson recommended, first we must start by looking at this issue from all sides. Mearsheimer and Walt only present one side.

In her column, Ackerson stated, “Palestinians have nothing to gain from pursuing peaceful methods.” Really? I disagree.

The Palestinian people have a tremendous amount to gain from pursuing peaceful methods and halting violence, as does the Israeli side.

If this situation can be dealt with diplomatically, with negotiating partners Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and a combined effort of President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leadership, we might be able to make greater strides toward a peaceful solution.

Neither side wants a continuation of the violence. Though both sides have a “legitimate claim of self defense” a cease-fire and resumption of talks may be a preferred route to take.

Shirit Stern is a senior animal sciences and political science major and the president of Students for Cultural and Historical Awareness of Israel. Letters and feedback can sent to

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