Israeli armor and soldiers, above, were massing yesterday on the outskirts of the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Israel ‘at war’

Hawaii's Middle East ties pull
in opposite directions

By Treena Shapiro and Helen Altonn

Hawaii residents from Israel and a local Muslim leader disagree about how to end the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

Hanan Katz, 43, said that Israeli military should have taken action to stop the terror acts by the Palestinians sooner. "I've never seen the Israelis as scared out of their wits as they are now," he said.

However, Hakim Ouansafi, president of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, still hopes that discussion and intervention by the United States can put a stop to the violence. "Without any help from the outside world, innocent people are dying on both sides," he said.

Katz said he left Israel 12 years ago to escape the violence, and he is unsuccessfully trying to convince his family to leave as well. "Why should you be there and risk your life?"

Military action is the only solution, Katz said, because he believes the Arabs are not interested in peace. "They have one goal in mind, to take the Jews and put them in the sea," he said.

Ouansafi sees it differently. The Israeli government should have capitalized on the positive Arab summit instead of delivering "a slap in the face to the entire Arab world," he said.

"The Palestine people have been oppressed over 50 years and looking forward to peace but the Israeli government is acting like a teenager by flexing muscles.

"Bush, our president, should have taken extreme positive steps by asking or demanding that Israel retreat. Taking a passive situation by sitting at his ranch and saying 'We know they eventually want peace' is not doing anything."

Egyptian women shouted anti-Israel and anti-U.S. slogans yesterday as they burned a depiction of the Israeli flag during a demonstration at Ain Shams University in Cairo.

Ronen Zilberman, a free-lance photographer from Israel, said that he returned to Israel in 1999 to vote for Ehud Barak, who wanted to give the Palestinians land in return for peace.

"I was supporting them, their cause, the land," he said. "I was really interested in a state of peace in Israel."

But instead of accepting the land offer put forth by Barak, Palestinians continued their terror attacks and Zilberman said he feels betrayed.

"I'm very, very mad. I think the Palestinians robbed me of my dignity."

Ouansafi said since the United States supports Israel, he added, "the very least we can do is demand that they retreat and work side by side with the Palestinians to get rid of any terrorists."

The Israelis, Ouansafi said, "are acting like terrorists with uniforms" and this should stop because neither leader of the two peoples is affected.

"The only ones hurt are innocent people on both sides ... A life really has no nationality, no color, no religion."

But when innocent Israelis die, he said, "We hear about it again and again and again. When an innocent Palestinian dies, it's a 'casualty of war, collateral damage.' "

The only difference between Palestinian suicide bombers who have been killing Israelis and the Israeli government killing Palestinians is the government delivers bombs on airplanes, Ouansafi said.

He said the United States must demand an end to the killings, just as European countries and the United Nations have done.

Israel is in violation of 67 United Nations resolutions, he said. "They have to review their government and their policies: 85 percent of water goes to Israelis and only 15 percent goes to Palestinians.

"All that injustice is breeding ground for hatred. Until that's fixed, what can you expect?"

Zilberman said Israel should continue destroying the Palestinians' military infrastructure, then the two should separate with a demilitarization zone between them, as in North and South Korea.

Ouansafi still hopes for a less violent solution. "Hopefully, these religious holidays for all of us will bring about some sense and sit down as peace-loving people and really discuss the matters at hand, find the root cause and cure it together."

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