Israel And Palestine


Sir, - It's a shame that The Irish Times uncritically echoes the bizarre and offensive claim that Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon showed "contemptuous disregard for Muslim and Palestinian sensitivities" in merely visiting Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount. It is the official Palestinian position, rather - which regards any Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple Mount as a "defilement" - that is contemptuously insensitive. Those among us who honour the rights of all peoples of all faiths view Palestinian chauvinism on this score as thoroughly unacceptable. By contrast, we applaud Israel's steps to keep the Temple Mount open to Muslim worship as a sign of respect for Muslim reverence of the Haram al Sharif. And we encourage Israel to take the further step of maintaining free access for Jewish pilgrims as well. The Irish Times is wrong too to lay the blame for Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians and military personnel at the doorstep of Sharon's "provocation". Violence, unless in self-defence, is the responsibility of those who commit it.

Sharon is not responsible for the call of the chief Palestinian religious official of the Temple Mount to "eradicate the Jews from Palestine" on the day after Sharon's visit. Sharon is not responsible for that same official's remark that Jews are the "sons of pigs and monkeys" and that the Temple remains are a Jewish fabrication. Sharon is not responsible for the Palestinian militias that have ambushed Israeli school buses, passenger buses and civilian automobiles. The provocation, if any, has come from Palestinian media, which have broadcast calls to "kill the Jews everywhere" (October 13th, Palestinian television). - Yours, etc.,

Avi Bell, Co-chairman, Lawyer's Committee for Democracy in the Middle East, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.