I hold no particular love for either the Israelis or the Palestinians and I hesitate to enter the debate between David Lee and Ray Fleming, but I cannot let a blatant untruth in Mr. Lee's letter go unchallenged. He states that many passengers were killed during the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in October 1985. It is public record that only one passenger, wheelchairbound 69 year old Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer was murdered and his body thrown overboard. It is also public record that the leader of the PLF, the group responsible Muhammed Zaidan (Abu Abbas) maintained he was never on board the ship, and the planned operation was not to harm the passengers.
He later renounced terrorism, apologised to the Klinghoffer family, and in 1996 the PLO paid the family an undisclosed sum to settle a civil suit out of court. The same year Abu Abbas returned to live in the Gaza strip as a member of the Palestinian National Council with the full knowledge and acceptance of the Israeli government. I do not have the time to research the other points put forward by Mr Lee, however one fact shines through clearly. It is his implacable, uncompromising rejection of the Palestinian struggle for an independant homeland and how judgement and truth can be clouded by such sentiments. I mention this, not to score points, but to demonstrate the complications in the reality of peoples trying to live together. In the mostly unseen world of international politics there is never black and white.
Those whose actions are based on principles that allow no compromise will be sidelined as fanatics, Ian Paisley for example. If a terrorist is a terrorist for evermore then the men and women who fought for the establishment of the State of Israel stand forever condemned. Neither side can claim the moral high ground as television images of Israeli soldiers using heavy rocks to break the legs of young Palestinians a decade ago showed only too well. Arafat is no saint Mr Lee, but neither is Sharon. They have to be made to talk, negociate and produce a settlement that gives the Palestinians a country, not a collection of Bantustans. Otherwise if someone does something stupid and the whole of the middle east erupts, then we in the comfortable bit of the world will start paying the price.
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