To Walk with Israel is not to support Mideast 'status quo'

Opinion

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Kudos to Bill Dwyer for his excellent coverage of the two Mideast-related walks on May 15 ("Walks tout varied Mideast views," May 18). I was at both events and consider his story a fair and accurate summary of what happened at each.

But I do take exception to one implication of the story. According to Dwyer, the organizers of Walk with Israel said their event "in effect celebrated the status quo," a status quo which organizers of Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine decry. His story goes on to imply that the local Jewish community is divided into two camps: those who endorse the Mideast status quo and those who oppose it.

I believe that this implication is misleading. I do not know what the Walk with Israel organizers said to Mr. Dwyer, but I want to make clear that I did not participate in Walk with Israel to celebrate the status quo. Nor did most of the people I know who walked with me. We joined the walk to support the existence of Israel and the people of Israel. As one of the organizers put it, it's like showing up for Fourth of July celebrations in this country. Watching the Oak Park fireworks does not mean that one endorses the war in Iraq or the policies of the Bush Administration. (If it did, I imagine the celebrations would be much less well-attended.) I, and most of the people I know who Walked with Israel this year, support Palestinians' right to a state of their own and oppose the occupation of Palestine.

I have repeatedly asked the Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine organizers to schedule their walk so that I and others like me could participate in both events. In response, they have repeatedly insisted that Walk with Israel is an endorsement of the status quo and continued to hold their Oak Park event at the same time every year. It was the Walk with Israel organizers who (coincidentally) finally made the fulfillment of my wish possible, because Walk with Israel took place in a number of metro-area locations this year. As one born on May 15, I consider this to be the best birthday present I could have received.

Judith Alexander
Oak Park

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