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Students react to Mideast attacks

By Daily Bruin Staff

March 4, 1996 9:00 p.m.

Students react to Mideast attacks

Community members hope for peace despite renewed violence

By Patrick Marantal

and Brooke Olson

Daily Bruin Staff

What began as Purim, a festival celebrating the survival of the
Jewish people, ended yesterday in tragedy with the bombing death of
14 Israeli citizens.

This latest terrorist suicide bombing in Israel drew reactions
of horror and disgust locally, and renewed debate over Arab and
Israeli relations.

"It sickens me," said Gary Bernato, editor in chief of Ha’Am,
UCLA’s Jewish magazine. "It irks me (that Hamas) picked (this
holiday) because it is the the time the Jews are the happiest."

Some members of the Los Angeles Jewish community said the
bombing hit home for them. Many Jewish people have family members
or friends in Jerusalem, said Joe Levin, the president of the
Jewish Student Union.

"The bombing horrified the Jewish community to a level I’ve
never seen before," added Morgan Muchnick, the vice president of
Jewish Student Union. "We cannot just mourn the dead. We have to
say what is going on and what is wrong."

Hamas, a militant Palestinian organization which has carried out
similar bombings in the past, targeted the area outside of Tel
Aviv’s largest shopping center Monday near 4 p.m., Israeli

In wire service reports, members of the terrorist faction said
that the attacks were in retaliation for the Jan. 5 assassination
of Hamas’ chief bombmaker.

But UCLA experts said that Hamas may have more blatantly
political motives other than revenge in its recent terrorist

Broadly, these political motives include Hamas’ desire to
increase its legitimacy within the Palestinian community. But more
directly, experts added, Hamas is calling for the release of its
members in prison and an end to Israeli investigation of its

Many have noted that so long as Israel continues to arrest
members of the terrorist faction, militant tactics will be used
against the citizens, said UCLA political science Professor David

"(Prime Minister of Israel) Shimon Peres is determined to
continue with hunting down the Hamas people," said Rapoport, an
expert on religion and terrorism. "My feeling is that the
(bombings) will continue and possibly escalate."

Still, others attributed the recent assaults to Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat’s inability to crack down on the extremists
in his community.

"Arafat is extremely weak," said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller,
director of UCLA’s Hillel organization. "It is unclear to me that
he can do what is necessary to control the violence within his

But some members of the Jewish Student Union, although agreeing
that Arafat is politically weak, believed that the Palestinian
president is the only hope for achieving peace.

"We have to recognize that things take place over time," Levin
said. "Yasser Arafat isn’t exactly the perfect statesman, but we
are moving towards peace."

Regardless of Arafat’s intentions, others said Hamas’ attacks
are not a direct assault on Israeli government. Rather, the
terrorists’ actions aim to weaken the foundations of Middle East
democracy, said Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consul for communications and
public affairs.

"Hamas’ target is … the institutions Israel stands for:
democracy, social pluralism, freedom of speech and human rights,"
Aharoni said. "(Hamas) is trying to undermine the entire social
structure of western civilization."

In the wake of yesterday’s bombing, members of the Jewish
Student Union said it was important for the United States to
condemn the terrorist organization.

"If we don’t publicly and strongly (condemn) Hamas, then (the
U.S.) is standing by and doing nothing," Muchnick said. "Hamas is
the extreme … as a radical movement it’s causing too much

Although members of the UCLA Muslim Student Association were not
available for comment, the Islamic Center of Southern California
expressed sympathy for the victims of the latest attacks.

"I hope that the (peace process) will go forward," said Ahmed
El-Gabalawy, a member of the Islamic Center. "If they stop the
peace process, the Hamas group will get what they wanted."

But some expressed fear that these repeated terrorist attacks
will hinder, and perhaps destroy, the peace process.

"Peace is the ultimate goal," Levin said. "But the (Hamas
assaults) are making the peace process a fragile thing."

Aharoni fears the death toll will rise before peace is

"I’m afraid the bombings and deaths will continue so long as
divisions among the factions exist," he said.

Whatever the cost in lives, President Clinton told reporters on
Monday that the "forces of hate" must not be allowed to kill the
peace process.

"(Hamas) lives for the continuation of the violence and the
hatred in the Middle East," Clinton said. "We must not give into
that. We must fight it. We must fight it with all the resources in
our command."

Some members of the Jewish Student Union agreed with Clinton’s
view on violence. However, they said it is time to move away from
violence and focus instead on peace.

"Both sides of the issue have blood on their hands," Muchnick
said. "We’re calling for a stop to bloodshed (and) for peace as the

With reports in Tel Aviv by The Associated PressComments to
[email protected]

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