Saturday, March 30, 2002

UC teacher, students fear Mideast eruption into more bloodshed

Scholar: Extremists could be new Arab leaders

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As Israeli troops bombarded Yasser Arafat's headquarters Friday, students and a teacher of Middle East politics in Cincinnati gave up all hope for peace.

        “I would predict a long period of bloodshed,” said Elizabeth Frierson, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor who teaches 12 courses on Middle East history. “I am worried about rebellion and revolution.”

        And she isn't talking exclusively about Jews and Palestinians. Ms. Frierson said Mr. Arafat is one of the few people who has been able to keep at bay such radical Palestinian movements as Hamas and Hezbollah.

        If Mr. Arafat is made into a martyr — even a live one — then extremists will likely fill the void. That could lead to uprisings in many other Mideastern countries which have mostly stayed out of the fight between Israel and the Palestinian liberation movement.

        “I have friends on all sides who are like family to me,” she said Friday. “It's the ordinary people — on both sides — that I worry about. There are thousands upon thousands of people who are working for peace. What happens to them?”

        Unconfirmed reports, first that Mr. Arafat had been killed and later that he had been isolated in his compound, rocked Ms. Frierson's class Friday morning.

        Muslim and Palestinian students wore numb expressions and took in the news in silence.

        “They didn't say anything. I watched their faces and there was no real response,” said John Brown, a senior who is studying the Middle East. “They were just quiet.”

        Mr. Brown expects this attack will spiral into war that could ensnare other nations and eventually the United States.

        Middle East student William Beavers said Friday's action proves that Israel is not interested in peace. Mr. Arafat, he said, is the one person who can bring about any kind of peace.

        Mr. Beavers said he does not blame Mr. Arafat for recent suicide bombings in Israel. “They are less organized and more random. He was the only one capable of harnessing them.”

        Ms. Frierson described Mr. Arafat as one of the ruling elite. She said by going after him, Israel could create a vacuum that hard-line Muslim extremists will attempt to fill.

        If that happens, then Israel would have no choice but to try to strike them down, she said.

        She predicted many poor refugees in many Arab countries will react with violence.

        As if to underscore her prediction, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria staged angry protests Friday. They burned tires and faced down truncheons and water cannons with chants of “Death to Israel.”

        “Israel needed Arafat to be in power,” Ms. Frierson said. “Israel and Arafat are both afraid of Hezbollah.”


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