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September 17, 2004

‘Madness’ Didn’t Drive The Butchers of Beslan

The shocking outcome of the hostage taking at Beslan was described appropriately in your editorial, “The Madness of Beslan” (September 10), as depraved and horrifying. But calling it “madness” serves only to confuse a moral issue with a medical one: madness or psychosis.

It is crucial to understand that the Chechen terrorists were making calculated decisions with careful planning in order to achieve political goals. We can quite properly, from our moral perspective, render a judgment about such behavior and hold the planners and perpetrators responsible. They are no different than our military at My Lai or those who used and are using children as shields and suicide bombers.

To describe these terrorist killers of children as “mad” equates them with those of our unfortunate fellow human beings who suffer from a profound and disabling illness and who in fact are rarely violent. It potentially shifts the discourse from the political and moral to the psychological and social. I hope that the Forward would not engage in the kind of sensationalism that characterizes the tabloid press and would keep the discussion within its proper context.

Dr. Milton Kramer

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Director of Psychiatric Research

Maimonides Medical Center

New York, N.Y.

Removing Jews Is No Road Map to Peace

In response to both your August 27 editorial “Bush and the Settlements” and Americans for Peace Now’s Lewis Roth’s September 3 supporting letter, let me express the difficulty many of us have in comprehending the mindset that advocates the total absence of Jews as a valid sine qua non for the establishment of a Palestinian national entity.

The concept of Judenrein areas is an unacceptable basis for the creation of, and relationship between, political entities. Imagine, for an instant, any modern democratic state suggesting the forced removal of one of its ethnic components as a viable solution to a problem or conflict it may face. Forget not, for a moment, that Israel itself has a population composed of almost 20% Arab citizens. Is it so difficult to accept an Arab entity with a mere 10% Jewish population? Do we, especially as Jews, want to acquiesce in the validity of such a doctrine?

Steven S. Orlow


One Israel Fund

Flushing, N.Y.

Unilateral Moves Won’t Bring Israel Harmony

A unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the imposition of a semi-autonomous Palestinian state will not restore peace and calm to the region (“Cut Losses in an Unwinnable War,” September 10). Palestinians who are fighting for self-determination, let alone the more extreme militants and terrorist groups, would not be satisfied in a prisonlike strip of land — one in which the Palestinian government would have no control over its own borders, coast, or airspace and no ability to limit Israeli army movements.

A true solution to the conflict will occur only when Israel is prepared to discuss, not dictate, solutions to the difficult issues — the right of return, the settlements, the establishment of an independent state and infrastructure development in Palestine. Until then, Israel will continue to risk the lives of its citizens in, as the title of Yossi Alpher’s opinion article puts it, “an unwinnable war.”

Jonah Rubin

Jamaica, N.Y.

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