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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

January 25, 2003

WHY DO PALESTINIANS NEED A STATE?

BY BRUCE S. TICKER,

Philadelphia

In the nearly 36 years since Israel seized the West Bank, a basic question has never seemed to be posed, much less answered: Why can't the Palistinians live under Israeli rule?

Sure, an independent Palestinian state may one day become a reality, and for practical purposes such a state would serve Israel's needs as much as that of the Palestinians.

This is more than a rhetorical question. If the Arabs scoff at living among Israelis, will they be content to live next door to them?

So, it is important to understand why the Palestinians need their own state.

It doesn't make sense. After all, Jews comprise 2.4 percent of America's population against a Christian spread of at least 80 percent.

However, we're satisfied living here. We vote and participate in the political process. Many Jews succeed beyond their wildest imaginations; there are poor Jews; and probably most of us are part of the struggling middle class.

We face prejudice, but there are also legal avenues to combat discrimination.

The majority religion - Christianity - does possess a heavy influence here and one month a year we can get ennerved with near-constant public reminders of our religious differences. But at the same time, most Christians and Americans of other religions or no religion are fair with us.

In fact, our Christian neighbors often come to our aid in times of need. On one occasion when a synagogue was vandalized in a Philadelphia suburb, many nonJews were out in force to clean up the mess. When a Jewish family was terrorized during Hannukah in another Philadelphia burb, their neighbors bought menorahs and placed them by their windows in a show of solidarity.

Arabs and Muslims who live in America participate in the system.

Surely, Israel must govern all its citizens equitably and with justice - whether they are Jews, Muslims, Christians or part of any other group. In fact, some Israeli officials have been aware that they need to reassess their treatment of Arabs living in Israel proper.

And clearly, the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank should not be living under such deplorable conditions. However, the Palestinians as a group create many of the circumstances which lead to such a tragic situation.

Do other groups living in Israel and its territories seek their own state? I haven't heard of that from the Druse or Greek Orthodox.

Israel was not founded for the sake of hosting any particular religion. Jews as a people needed a homeland as a refuge from 2000 years of all forms of abuse that culminated in the murder of six million of our brethren. Yes, it is a Jewish state, but wholly in an ethnic sense - not a religious one.

There are already 22 Arab states which occupy a large chunk of the modern world while Israel and its territories comprise a tiny piece of real estate. Jews who lived in Arab states were exiled in 1948 and many were absorbed by Israel, yet the Palestinians have been treated as pawns by the rest of the Arab world.

If Palestinians are any different from the rest of the Arabs, why did Yasir Arafat say during the 2000 negotiations that he represented 1 billion Muslims? What distinguishes the Palestinians from the rest of the Arabs?

For demographic reasons alone, Israel may eventually need to enter into a two-state arrangement.

Yet on the basis of pure merit, I honestly don't get it. The question must still be answered: Why do the Palestinians need an independent state?
Ticker can be reached at Brucetic@aol.com