To the Editor:

Eyad Houssami’s critique of Daniel Hoffman’s opinion regarding Hanan Ashrawi’s lecture (“International law key in Middle East conflict,” 4/11) is logically problematic. Hoffman applauded Ashrawi for her “nuanced understanding” of Palestinian politics, but lamented her failure to exhibit the same understanding of Israeli politics. In response, Houssami argues that Ashrawi came “to lecture on Palestine, not Israel,” as Palestine is her area of expertise. If Ashrawi came to lecture on Palestine, her lecture missed the mark.

Ashrawi spent half her time condemning Israeli government policy, a product of politics. For this reason, Hoffman was reasonable to criticize her for “not thoroughly analyzing Israeli domestic politics,” since Sharon, like Abbas, acts in a tense political climate. Ashrawi and Houssami cannot condemn Israel for its policies and ignore its politics. The two are inseparable.

Israel’s cautious withdrawal and security policies are partly the result of years of fear and insecurity, a consequence of Palestinian violence. Although Israeli policies are far from perfect, appreciating their roots in Israeli politics and society would help Houssami understand that no other nation has acted with such restraint in the face of such systematic, heinous violence.

Houssami accuses Hoffman of implying that “the Palestinians should accept the occupation and condone the violations of human rights and international law until the Israeli psyche is ready to act.” Hoffman implies no such thing. No one can or should ask the Palestinians to accept a degrading, painful existence or condone the policies that created it. Hoffman simply asks Ashrawi to address the Israeli psyche when she discusses Israeli policies. Not doing so demonizes a people struggling for peace and security.

Charlie Carriere ’07

April 11, 2005