Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Arabs and Jews at odds here, too

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some Greater Cincinnati Arab-Americans say their anger over escalating violence in the Middle East has two causes:

        • They object to what they see as oppression by the Israelis.

        • They object to news depictions of the often-deadly conflict as a “war” implying, they say, equally matched adversaries.

        Some area Jews, however, see Palestinians as instigating the aggression and purposely putting youngsters in harm's way.

        “The media talks about this as a war, but it is not a war,” said Zeinab Schwen, vice president of Cincinnati chapter of the Arab American Association.

        “One side is an army of weap ons and the other side has only rocks,” Ms. Schwen said Monday.

        But some Greater Cincinnati Jews echoed the Israeli government's contention that heavily armed troops, armed with rubber bullets, deadlier ammunition and at times escorted by helicopter gunships and tanks, have been necessary to protect Israeli military personnel during the 13-day outbreak of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

        “Everyone regrets the death and destruction. Everyone is concerned in both the Arab and Jewish communities,” said Michael Rapp, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

        But Mr. Rapp complained that attempts to portray Palestinian demonstrations as spontaneous are also false.

        “Palestinian schools are closed ... and students are bused to the area. You don't put kids in military situations,” he said.

        But Khalid Khawaja of West Chester said the Israelis are to blame for using unjustified violence to “crush the frustration of an occupied people.”

        Mr. Khawaja has family in the West Bank area and worries about their safety as well as the struggle of Palestinians.

        “Basically you have people under an occupation ... there haven't been any changes for years and they are frustrated. This is not a war. It is an occupying force using its force on the occupied,” he said.


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