I have just returned from a vigil where Palestinians, and others, were praying and lighting candles in front of the American consulate in East Jerusalem. They then put yellow and white flowers at the entrance. Signs read "Palestinians, Americans, terrorism is our common enemy." Other signs read "hatred will not be ceased by hatred, hatred will be ceased by love" and "Together we stand against terrorism."

Palestinians are full of rage toward the perpetrators of this horrific violence. Palestinians are also angered by the few misguided Palestinians who were in the streets "celebrating," thinking that the USA is the cause of their endless suffering. You're hard-pressed to find one Palestinian that hasn't lost a friend or relative to Israeli brutality carried out using American-made and supplied artillery. This is not an excuse, though, and that's why the majority of Palestinians maintain that these few were misguided and acted without consideration to the loss of innocent lives.

Yesterday night, I attended a Palestinian vigil in solidarity with the victims, their families and all of the American people. These are the majority of the Palestinian people. Every Palestinian political faction, along with the Palestinian leadership, has condemned the attack and offered the American people their condolences. The Palestinian Legislative council sent their condolences to the American Congress. These are the real feelings of the Palestinian people. I'd like to let the people around you know that those people in the street are in no way representative of the Palestinian people as a whole.

The Palestinian people know what it's like to be victims of terror, and so perhaps more than any other people, they sympathize.

Imad Hamze

(Hamze is Lebanese-Canadian who works

for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza)

Jerusalem, Israel

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing

Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." One talk radio host allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done."

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban is a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity; they were also the first victims of the perpetrators.

Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan -- a country with no economy and no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines; the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are just a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

So what else is there? What can be done? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed, having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that's bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. That's why he did this. He really believes Islam would beat the West. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose. He's probably wrong -- in the end the West would win, whatever that would mean -- but the war would last years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

Tamim Ansary

San Francisco, Calif.

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