Saturday, March 30, 2002

Mideast situation worries those with relatives there

Locals have ties to residents in Israel and Palestinian area

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With tensions escalating between Israelis and Palestinians, Si Shulman can't help but worry about his cousins living in Israel.

        “For us, this is a little more personal than it is to most people,” said the 78-year-old Amberley Village resident. “I think about it every day. Over there, you go to the grocery store, and you don't know if you're going to come back.”

        The mounting Mideast crisis also is unsettling for Abdelghani Mustafa, a native Palestinian living in Fairfield. He has a sister, cousins and other relatives in Palestinian territory.

        “We're tired of the bombing and the killing of both sides,” Mr. Mustafa said just before attending the weekly Friday service at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township.

        The threat of full-blown war between the Israelis and the Palestinians frightens Greater Cincinnatians who have relatives in the Mideast — especially in Israel and Palestinian territory.

        Barbara Miller, 70, of Hyde Park, has a niece in Netanya, where a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed 19 Israelis and wounded 120 others at a hotel as people were sitting down in the dining room to a Seder meal celebrating Passover.

        Mrs. Miller's niece has a son now serving in the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.

        “This whole thing is so upsetting,” said Mrs. Miller, owner of Miller Gallery in Hyde Park. “I hope it doesn't become an all-out war.”

        A 62-year-old native Palestinian who lives in West Chester Township has a mother and sisters and brothers in Palestinian territory. He asked that his name not be used in this story because he fears for the safety of his relatives and for himself.

        “Every Palestinian is suspected of being a terrorist,” he said.

        He said it's unrealistic for Israelis to expect Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to control terrorists.

        “They're asking him to create miracles,” he said. “They need to give him room, give him time and work with him.”

        But Carl Morgenstern, who has aunts and cousins in Israel, said Israelis can't trust Mr. Arafat.

        “Arafat wants to get rid of Israel and drive it into the sea,” said Mr. Morgenstern, an 80-year-old West Chester Township resident. “He's not a friend of the Palestinians and he's not a friend of Israel. There has to be someone else we could deal with.”

        Mr. Mustafa, 38, said all that Palestinians want is their freedom. He said Israelis have made the Palestinians suffer terribly.

        He compared Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Hitler and said the United States needs to be more critical of Israel's actions and policies.

        Elliot Karp, director of financial resource development for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, said Israel's enemies are Palestinian authorities, not the Palestinian people.

        Mr. Karp, 46, of Blue Ash, has relatives and friends living in Israel.

        “If Arafat is truly desirous of living peacefully side by side with Israel,” he said, “then let him demonstrate it with his actions. The last few months have proven that his words and his rhetoric don't hold up.”

        Mr. Mustafa said that despite the dire situation, he and his family have not given up hope for a peaceful solution.

        “We'd like the Palestinians and the Israelis to be able to walk together in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, just like they can walk together in New York or other cities in the United States,” he said.

        “We want to see real peace. Enough is enough.”


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