To the Editor:
David Pryce-Jones’s “Self-Determination, Arab-Style” [January] neatly separates the reality of Arab political life from the propaganda. . . . A telltale clue to Arab attitudes about events in the Middle East is the lack of outrage on the part of Arab elites over atrocities inflicted on the masses. When, if ever, has a prominent individual in the Arab community—like Edward Said, for example—led a march or circulated a petition protesting an event like the 1982 slaughter by Hafez al-Assad of tens of thousands of Syrians in Hama? Where are the expressions of compassion from Arab elites over the killing of thousands upon thousands of Arab men, women, and children in the “war of the camps” in Lebanon? Where are the voices of Arab intellectuals and Muslim religious leaders bemoaning the death of thousands of children used as fodder during the Iran-Iraq war? Has any Arab notable spoken out protesting the appalling waste of lives and wealth during that war?
How is it that Arab intellectuals do not support or admire those few dissidents who have taken courageous moral stands? How is it that there is no equivalent of a Martin Luther King, Jr. anywhere in the Arab world, a figure who speaks out for the oppressed and dares to stand up against the ruling Arab elites?
Until there is a body of leaders in the Arab world able and willing to take a stand in behalf of fellow Arabs . . . it would be foolhardy to accept Arab pretensions to progressiveness at face value.
West Long Branch, New Jersey
To the Editor:
. . . The West cannot understand that when the Palestinian National Charter calls for the destruction of Israel, that is precisely what the PLO wants, though the organization is smart enough to mask its intent in the honorable rhetoric of self-determination and democracy. Thus, to the Western media, Yasir Arafat is a man of peace who struggles against the extremists in his organization. As David Pryce-Jones maintains in his conclusion, the unwillingness of the West to take the Arabs at their word is indeed patronizing. Unfortunately, the sort of colonial mind-set he describes is worse than racism; for Israel it is downright dangerous.
To the Editor:
The article by David Pryce-Jones was definitely timely, appearing at a moment in history when the world seems to be taken in by Arab rhetoric. . . . The article reminds us that all talk of a democratic secular state is as unlikely in the case of the PLO as it is elsewhere in the Arab world. None of the 22 or so Arab states today practices democracy, and neither will the Palestinians, once they have gained independence. Elections will never be heard of again, women will no longer have any rights, and there will be no religious toleration.
The situation in the town of El Arish, ceded to Israel by Egypt in 1978, offers an instructive example. An Israeli Arab who has cousins living there told me that his relatives complain bitterly because—after more than ten years of so-called “self-determination”—the Egyptians allow the Palestinians no autonomy, nor any of the economic benefits they had under the Israelis. Moreover, they allow no foreigners or journalists into El Arish. . . .
In view of all this, the obvious question is why Israel should be asked to make sacrifices of the most mortal kind to accommodate plans for self-determination which are not genuinely put into practice by the Arabs themselves.
New York City