Promoting peace through startups

I just finished reading the Fall issue and enjoyed the cover story, “When All Else Fails, Try Entrepreneurship.” I am proud Brandeis is host to such a wonderful initiative. A key to achieving peace in the Middle East can be found in creating positive interactions between Israelis and Palestinians.

There are two factual inaccuracies in the article. First, Lobna Agbaria is an Arab citizen of Israel, not a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Second, Tel Aviv does not have Jewish law firms. Law firms in Tel Aviv are made up of all citizens (Jewish, Muslim and Christian) as well as non-Israeli foreign residents.

Marc Tobin ’88
Beit Shemesh, Israel

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“When All Else Fails, Try Entrepreneurship” contains serious flaws in semantics. The author plays fast and loose with terms that are not only misleading but patently false.

There is no such thing as an “Israeli Palestinian.” Or more precisely, since the British Mandate period there has not been a territorial entity known as Palestine. The Arab citizens of Israel are Arab citizens of Israel. They may certainly be sympathetic with Arab causes across the so-called Green Line, but they are actually citizens of Israel and thus cannot be Palestinian.

There is also something very misleading about the article’s premise, which is that Jews and Arabs have little to do with each other in their daily life in Israel. It is true that an observant Jew would not be able to break bread with a Muslim or a Christian, but they interact daily in many ways. There is an intense level of interaction in hospitals and clinics. Arabs and Jews intermingle in malls, in supermarkets, on promenades and at zoos. The only places they don’t intermingle is in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. This is not a Jewish or an Israeli choice or position. It is a tragic fact of life in the Middle East.

It is wonderful to be open-hearted and liberal, but it is also important to base one’s positions on facts and rational thinking, and avoid agenda-driven reporting.

Lisa Cain Hammerman ’74
Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel

Editor’s note: Some Arab citizens of Israel choose to self-identify as “Palestinian-Israeli.”

Smarts versus sentiment

Regarding “The Art of the Rebuke” [Brief Perspective], by American studies professor Thomas Doherty — amen! Well-stated, and needs to be reiterated.

I found, in particular, Doherty’s recent experience teaching the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” most disheartening. As he states, he wanted “students to look at the film, engage the questions and venture an opinion” [emphasis added]. This is at the center of any university properly performing its education function, especially one whose motto is “Truth Even Unto Its Innermost Parts.” How sad that Doherty’s students reacted with “silence, a nervous, queasy silence [because they] seemed afraid to talk lest they say the wrong thing.”

This is very, very serious. What is Brandeis going to do about it?

Kent Lawrence ’66