Editor, Daily Nexus:
This letter is a response to Eli Raber’s seemingly bitter letter about Dr. Hanan Ashrawi’s recent visit to UCSB (The Reader’s Voice, “Pro-PLO Speaker Taints Center’s Grand Opening,” April 11). I intend this letter to be an objective and unbiased view, being that I am neither Arab nor Jewish, and I hope that it will not be taken as an attack.
Raber casts a very negative light on the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Ashrawi. Raber claims that the PLO is a “known terrorist organization,” and that Ashrawi is a “known propagandist and hate speaker.” I will not claim any universal knowledge regarding terrorist organizations or hate speakers, but I will say that to call the PLO a terrorist organization is no different than calling Israel a terrorist organization, and that to call Ashrawi a hate speaker is just plain ridiculous. I think it is important to remember that we are talking about two groups who are fighting for what they honestly believe to be their homes. If the PLO is a terrorist organization for defending and fighting for their land and homes, then Israel’s occupation and destruction of Palestinian homes and communities is no less terrorist in nature. I do not mean to label either party terrorist, but this is a two-sided struggle involving violence on both sides. It is true that the PLO and Palestinians have used and do use violence, but this is a group of people who cannot walk the streets at night because of Israeli troops who patrol the streets near artificial and increasingly intrusive borders.
I do not know every word that Ashrawi has spoken, but her promotion of peaceful means for resolution makes me question Raber’s claim that she is a “known hate speaker.” Just as Raber’s own words are filled with passion, I think it only fair to consider the personal aspect of the issue for a Palestinian who has experienced the violence of the conflict firsthand.
Raber also seems concerned with Ashrawi’s alleged anti-American sentiments, despite the fact that such factors are extremely important to the history of the Middle East and the current relations between the U.S. and Middle Eastern nations. As far as democracy in the region is concerned, I believe it is irrelevant to the opening of the Middle East Studies Dept. and to America’s relationship with Israel and Palestine. However, I remind you that Ashrawi is the founder of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.
I believe it was a wise decision for UCSB to invite someone so involved and knowledgeable as Ashrawi, and more importantly, someone who promotes peace and distinguishes her views from those who practice violence. I hope that I have at least opened your eyes to the two sides of this complicated issue.