Dear Sir, I must agree with David Lee that my personal experience of the Arab/Israeli conflict is limited. I first visited Jerusalem as a convinced admirer of Israel (Exodus the Hollywood film, and all that) in 1973, and began to waiver when I saw the effects of the occupation, at that time only five years old. The contempt in which ordinary Israelis held their new Arab subjects was very obvious. In 1974, I lived for a year in Beirut. Regularly, Israeli planes rocketed the Palestinian refugee camps in South Beirut. They flew very low, releasing their missiles about half a mile before they passed overhead my apartment next to the Commodore Hotel. Being shot at is quite unnerving. My cleaning lady, Umm Abdul, was late one day. Her excuse – a rocket had demolished her neighbour's house.
In 1982, I tried to contact her again, only to find that she and her family had all been massacred at the instigation of Ariel Sharon in Sabra camp. Elie Hobeika, who led the rampage, was blown up last year by the Israelis, when he hinted he might blow the gaff on Sharon. I was last in Jerusalem in 1996. It seemed that peace, at last, was just around the corner. At the end of Ramadan, the open area outside the Damascus Gate was set out for a small fiesta for the end of a month of fasting. As a village fiesta in Majorca, it had stalls, balloons, clowns, etc, but no alcohol at all. The atmosphere was quietly festive except for threatening ranks of fully armed and armoured Israeli troops lined along the main road, a provocation if ever I saw one. I walked by, and was almost back in my guesthouse in Saladin Street. I saw a crowd of boys running toward me, so I slipped into a shop to avoid trouble. Three Israeli troops burst in, waving clubs, and had I not ducked down behind the counter, my head would have been smashed instead of the shopkeeper's display. Recently, I met an ex–IDF soldier on an overnight boat in the Philippines. He told how he had been ordered to blow up the family of a local Lebanese activist in Sidon. He was marked for assassination, but they turned up instead. Later, as a sniper in Hebron, he hesitated to shoot a 14 year old boy carrying a bag of oranges during a curfew, so was ordered to sniper duty over the boy's funeral the next day. The minor details of his story were what gave it credibility. He was disgusted by his behaviour under orders, and had left Israel, he hoped, for good. David Lee's story about the boy being ripped from limb to limb is certainly graphic, but is it true? What is his source? The same PR firm who cooked up the story about babies in incubators in Kuwait? As for his fears about Wahhabi Saudis, they are certainly not very pleasant (I spent a month in Riyadh in 1986, and saw for myself) but have they actually warred against anybody else, except in Afghanistan, where they fought the Russians at the instigation of the US? Maybe he will quote 9/11 where 15 of the supposed hijackers were identified as Saudis. Is he aware that eight of those named and pictured suicide killers are still alive and well in Saudi Arabia, according to the Daily Telegraph?

Yours sincerely
Richard Parker
Puerto Pollensa
By Email