Memo From Mac



The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Iowa

Deep-Rooted Feelings Cloud Options For Any Settlement In Middle East 

Jerusalem, Israel "I'm a loyal American," declared our robust, white-haired host, face almost flaming with the passion he obviously felt. "But I'm ashamed of the way we've handled this."

"This" is the Jewish-Palestinian deadlock, and our agitated host was Landrum Boling, 74-year-old Quaker, former president of prestigious Earlham College in Indiana, of the Lilly Foundation, and leader of various Mideast peace-seeking agencies. Now he is rector of Tantur, noted and beautifully situated ecumenical institute and center for reconciliation.

We'd stopped here, toiling through the Judean hills up from contentious Hebron, to seek another perspective, among olive groves and flower gardens on Jerusalem's outskirts. We got it, unadorned.

"The land is indispensable to being a Jew," this Christian said, endorsing what Dan Segre, the Jewish author, had told us at the beginning. That is the root of need to guarantee the state of Israel. This is true, Bolling said, even though "the bulk of Israelis are non-observant Jews." A covenant nevertheless was made for the government to recognize the Sabbath, support religious schools and provide Rabbinical rather than secular courts to handle domestic matters.

Israel's struggle is not only external with Arabs, but internal, with itself.

"A solid majority is for a Jewish state; only a minority for real democracy," which would make Arabs full citizens.

"It is difficult to be a democratic state and keep Arabs under subjection," Bolling says.

He described the far right, ultra-orthodox Jews led by Meir Kahane as growing in numbers and power and offering Arabs three choices: Take your compensation and leave; live here without citizenship; or be forced out by military power. Better solutions are needed before the state destructs.

Palestinians want an end to Jewish occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Whether this means an independent state or an autonomous territory federated with Jordan are the main choices, Bolling said. Sixty percent of Jordan (the east bank of the Jordan River) is Palestinian. Every family in Jordan has relatives in the West Bank, and vice versa.

But most Palestinians support an independent state, the goal of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"Make no mistake," Bolling said, "85 percent support Yassir Arafat and the PLO."

With the United States and Israel adamant in their refusal to talk to Arafat and the PLO, the best chance to break the logjam is through an international peace conference, Bolling thinks.

"There's more hope today than ever before," he says. "People are fed up with the impasse. Arabs know Israel is going to stay and they must live with it. They want to get on with finding a solution. The biggest problem is with American passivity. President Reagan didn't even mention the Mideast in his 1986 State of the Union message.

"How foolish we have been," he went on. "Blowing up our Marine barracks in Beirut was directly connected to three weeks earlier our Battleship New Jersey firing on defenseless villages in the hills. There was absolutely no reason for that, except it apparently made people in high places feel better."

There's no magic in international peace conferences, he said, but conditions are favorable.

"The Palestinians must be legitimately represented," he noted, and that means by Arafat so long as he is their chosen leader.

"And we cannot exclude the Russians. We can work together with them and the Arabs." Fear that the Russians can sell communism to the Arabs is nonsense, he said. "They are very entrepreneurial and very religious."

That point is driven home vividly to anyone who has seen the communist system and then has seen the Arabs at prayer in the mosques and at business in the marketplace.

We left Quaker Bolling on his peaceful hillside in this warring land, understanding that the deadlock here is not merely between desires, but absolute needs for existence.

Return to Columns.