Build Bridges - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2218412

Build Bridges

A friend alerted me to an “inane” letter by Thomas Jones in response to my October 23 opinion piece [“The Palestinians Are Not Going Anywhere,” Viewpoint], so I found it and read it.

Inane, indeed.

First off, Mr. Jones, I am indeed a Middle East expert: I have spent over 50 years visiting and living in the Middle East and North Africa. I have a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and an MBA with a minor in Middle East economics from Wharton. I am uniquely competent in Arabic, fluent in standard and three dialects, and I have studied Hebrew, Turkish and Urdu.

I lived in Tunisia for three years, Damascus for a year (first American on a Fulbright in Syria), Cairo for two years, and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for two years. As a consultant, I have been called the World Bank’s “go-to” guy for Middle Eastern financial institutions. I was invited by USAID to draft Palestine’s first financial sector plan and by the Pentagon as part of the rebuilding team in Iraq after the American invasion.

I have been invited to speak at Harvard, the New School, Berkeley, Wharton/Penn, CUNY, Columbia, and a range of non-academic institutions, including the U.S. State Department. Each of them always introduced me as, ahem, a “Middle East expert.” Not my call.

I am guessing from Mr. Jones’s fact-free rant, that he knows next to nothing about the region and has never set foot in Palestine. Alas, this is the hallmark of the contemporary American right wing: Facts signify nothing; only self-righteous indignity matters.

The only specific point of fact that Thomas Jones contests is my statement about Netanyahu bolstering Hamas. Mr. Jones says, “Let’s start with: Benjamin Netanyahu backed Hamas? Never.”

It doesn’t take deep research to find multiple sources supporting this observation, and it is widely known among Israelis. Netanyahu and several right-wing allies outlined a strategy of backing Hamas to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization and thereby prevent a two-state solution.

The gist of the remainder of Mr. Jones’s letter is a fact-free diatribe claiming that Palestinians “want Israel and Jews to die,” while Israelis “have not wantonly killed Palestinians for the sake of killing.” No opinion polls, research or interviews to support any of this claptrap.

Mr. Jones ends with this horrifically violent vision: “There will never be a two-state solution. Israel will destroy Hamas and level Gaza.”

I wouldn’t normally have bothered to reply to such a blustering tirade, but this was the only letter in response to my piece. The only response to such festering racism in our community is education. Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about fighting fear and ignorance with knowledge and light. Let’s build bridges, not walls.

Ken Dorph

Sag Harbor