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January 19, 2003




It might seem strange that I skimmed a photo spread of Palestinian suffering without giving it much thought. However, the four-page section sparked a firestorm of protest from individual Jews and Jewish organizations in the Philadelphia area.

The photos under the headline "Cycle of War" in the Jan. 8 Philadelphia Daily News depicted scenes of life in Nablus in the West Bank amid the current war between Israel and the Palestinians, and the spread inspired letters to the editor the following week such as:

"The 'Cycle of War' presented a biased, manipulative look at the conflict in the Middle East," Michael Rosen of Philadelphia wrote.

"While not minimizing the horrors inflicted on the Israelis, the article manages to portray some of the horror visited upon the other side," wrote Omar Hijab of Charlestown Township, a suburb of Philadelphia.

I'm with you, Omar. That kind of photo spread - mainly of war's effects on Palestinian children - should appear on the pages of every newspaper in the world daily. It's just that I would alter the text a tad, beginning with this headline:


These photos illustrate what happens in war. War is always destructive and senseless.

What makes the effects of this war really stupid is that segments the adult Palestinian generation initiated this senseless war knowing full well that they were taking on a far superior military force.

Certainly, nobody should have to live like this, and I will leave it to the Israeli government to defend its actions. But the bottom line is this: The Palestinians and their fellow Arabs in other nations created this situation.

I could go further back in time, but in 1948 the Arab countries chose to initiate a state of war with the newly created nation of Israel instead of live in peace with the Israel people. The 1948 clash left Jordan in control of the land area generally known as the West Bank. Hardliners on one side call it "Palestine" and hardliners on the other side call it "Judea and Samaria."

A massive refugee problem resulted. While Jews were evicted from Arab lands and absorbed by Israel, Palestinian refugees were left to live in camps in the West Bank and other Arab countries. Arab leaders who made billions of dollars from oil spent little money on improving the lives of the Palestinians or their own people.

Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967 during still another attack by the Arabs. Though the leadership of Jordan and Egypt later befriended the Israelis, substantial hostility throughout the Arab world persisted.

Critics contend that Israel made serious mistakes itself, such as building settlements and overextending itself in Lebanon. Whatever the truth is, would Israel have behaved differently had the Arabs extended a hand of friendship from the beginning? Or is it fair to say that some Israelis feel they were driven to some misguided actions?

During the summer of 2000, Israel made a serious attempt to reach a peaceful settlement, no matter how imperfect, and the Palestinian response was to start another war. When the Arabs initiated daily attacks within Israel, they knew very well that they were going up against a highly trained, well-armed military and they were delusional if they believed the Israelis would roll over for it.

So is anyone surprised that Palestinian casualty rates are triple the amount of Jewish casualties? That Israelis ended up electing a far rougher prime minister? That under this prime minister settlements were expanded, there has been excessive military force, restrictions have been tightened and starvation, disease and unemployment have skyrocketed?

The result for both Israelis and Palestinians has been awful, but is that really news to any of us? This is what happens in war. If the Arabs object to it, why did they go to war against Israel to begin with?

That's the lesson of these photos.

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