The conflict between Arabs and Jews is riddled by narratives from both sides. As the cycle of viewpoints and letters from last week show, the feelings of animosity and the charged rhetoric are still prevalent.

As a returning alumnus, however, it was interesting to see past roles reversed. Granted, Ms. Hartmann’s tone was not diplomatic (“No Excuses for Terrorists,” The Hoya, Oct. 15, 2004, A3), but I commend her for having the courage to speak her mind on a topic that is full of taboos and intimidation, and for having addressed some painful truths, especially at Georgetown. I’d like to propose a different framework for looking at the conflict, which might prove to be our only hope of moving forward and getting past the rhetoric.

Never has an independent Palestinian state existed. Why? Because the Arab world has always been more concerned with preventing the existence of the Jewish state, with attacking it militarily and ostracizing it from the world community, than with taking care of its own internal problems.

We can argue forever about details. But the fact is that the Palestinians are here to stay, as are the Israelis. Both peoples deserve a state of their own.

Both sides can give innumerable arguments to support their right to all the land but the fact is that all the land is not available. The Israelis will have to do without major parts of their ancestral homeland and without places like Bet-El, Hebron (which contains the Tombs of the Patriarchs) and Bethlehem (where Rachel’s Tomb is located) – all places with an undisputed connection to Judaism. Likewise, the Palestinians will have to do without their lands in places like Yafo and Akko.

Why must both peoples do without these lands? Because it is simply not in their interest to continue to pursue them.

The Israelis cannot maintain a Jewish and democratic state if they also insist on their dream of controlling all the land.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, need a state of their own in order to take care of their own needs and address their dreams of self-determination – a state they will not get if they keep insisting on their right to all the land. They manifest this desire when they call for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza on top of demanding a “right to return” to Israel proper, which ultimately means the destruction of its Jewish character.

I am writing this piece because like Mr. Bitar (“Hoya Viewpoint Out of Line,” The Hoya, Oct. 19, 2004, A2), I guess I, too, am a “refugee.”

I am a Mexican Jew of Syrian descent. My grandparents were kicked out of Syria, along with many Christians, in the early 1920s. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Jews and Christians experienced increased persecution, their possessions were confiscated by the government or fell prey to mob looting, synagogues were ransacked and girls were raped in the streets.

As a result, my grandfather left everything behind and ventured to a new world. He landed in Mexico penniless, but through hard work raised a family and helped build a new Jewish community. One of his grandsons now has the privilege of studying at Georgetown.

Can I claim that I am a refugee? No. Not only would I find that insulting to the 135 million refugees that were created in the 20th century, many of whom live in hard conditions, but I would also not be able to claim that because it is inconsistent with international law. Well, unless you are Palestinian.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the body responsible for all refugees in the world (except the Palestinians), a refugee is someone who has been personally dispossessed and forced into exile, which would mean that the youngest Palestinian refugee is now 56 years old.

Refugee status is not passed from one generation to the next. Unless, of course, you are Palestinian.

The Palestinians have their own UN organization (UNRWA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency) which instead of using criteria to help refugees move on with their lives and thus help reduce their numbers, works under guidelines that exponentially increase the number of refugees and perpetuate their misery.

Why do Palestinians keep insisting on their “right of return” and continue looking at the past instead of taking responsibility and looking to the future? Although I had a past in Syria, my present and my future are not there. They are in Mexico and Israel. I encourage Palestinians to follow my example and realize that their future is not in Yafo and Akko, but in Ramallah and Bethlehem. Or if it’s the case, Canada.

I propose we start thinking in terms of our interests instead of our “rights,” to start thinking about solutions instead of being so concerned with rhetoric and public relations. The majority of Israelis are doing this already. It’s about time the Palestinians do the same.

Salomon Kalach is a 2003 graduate of the College and a first-year student in the Communication, Culture and Technology program.

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