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Offensive and unfair

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Israeli anthropology professor Jeff Halper is mistaken ["Creative Dialogue," Feb. 16]. It is not virtually impossible for Arabs to obtain building permits from the Israelis. Far from it. According to the Jerusalem Municipality Office, in Jerusalem in 1998, 79 percent of Arab permit requests were granted, as opposed to 73 percent of Jewish requests.

The Independent article uncritically repeated Halper's ludicrous assertion that due to settlements and bypass roads, a Palestinian state is not viable. It is obvious to reasonable people that by the end of the negotiations, the Palestinians will gain more land and not all of the current settlements will remain. Furthermore, creative solutions for connecting noncontiguous parts can be found by willing partners. For example, the "Safe Passage" road that connects the West Bank and Gaza appears to be working fine.

Aside from Halper's cavalier attitude toward facts, it concerns me that he compared Israeli laws to apartheid. These offensive and unfair comparisons are over the line of reason and decency. Is it any wonder that most synagogues do not welcome him?

Salim Shawamreh spoke movingly about his family's demolition ordeal. However, he admitted in a Moment Magazine article that when he bought the land, he knew he wouldn't be able to legally build a house on it. He was warned repeatedly, but chose to break the law anyway. The Israelis cannot be blamed for his irresponsibility.

Susie Wilde's "Extreme Schools" [March 1] was an interesting comparison of two schools trying to do well by the students they serve. I want to commend her on refraining from the all-too-common scapegoating that happens when we compare schools of differing socio-economic levels. Most people who get into the business of education do so because they have a desire to help, but the conditions in many schools make that difficult to do. The image of the haggard, burned-out teacher, hanging onto a dead-end job for retirement benefits, is often portrayed as the cause of problems such as those experienced in the Durham school referred to in the article.

As an educator myself, I feel I would be remiss not to suggest that the article be taken a step further. If Wilde would turn her magnifying glass on the level of parental involvement and parental expectations of their children in either school, I think she would find the root of the differences between them. The seeds of school success lie in the hands of the parents who are responsible for sending children to school fed, rested, ready to learn, and full of the expectation that they will do what it takes to achieve their potential.

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