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The Question of Deportees

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The Opinion page article "Settle the Deportee Question," Feb. 17 misses the basic problem. The problem is that on one side there is Israel - a cohesive nation with a constitutionally elected government, recognized citizenry, a military, and judiciary and police to enforce laws under which its citizens are constrained to live.

On the other side are the Palestinians - a conglomeration of peoples scattered in various countries, a minority of whom are affiliated with various organizations, with no semblance of a constitution, no democratically elected leaders to speak for them, no laws or judiciary, and no overseeing militia to enforce a common code of behavior.

How is it possible for these two sides to negotiate as equals? Israel may negotiate for peace with Arab neighbors, but what about the Palestinians, who are the cause of the problem? The whole negotiating process will be a farce as long as the Palestinians are not represented.

The West Bank Palestinian leaders do not speak for those people in other countries, and they have no control even over those in their own territory. Chris Lihou, Charlottesville, Va.

The Opinion page articles "Rabin Compromise Helps Secure Israeli Position" and "Settle the Deportee Question," Feb. 17, fail to emphasize the important feature about deportations for anyone concerned about human rights; human rights are indivisible. Either one accepts the Geneva Convention or one does not.

Deportations of civilian populations have been carried out for centuries. However, the horrors of World War II led the nations of the world to sign the Geneva Convention, which explicitly forbids the deportation of populations from occupied territory for any reason.

Traditionally, Americans believe in the paramount rights of an individual as compared with the rights of states.

Although we must never condone violations, we may wish for pragmatic reasons to ignore violations. In such situations silence is probably the best policy.

Linking partial compliance to other actions is probably the worst; it makes it appear that we condone the residual violations. Richard Wilson, Newton Centre, Mass. Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University


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