South Mississippi Jews And Muslims Discuss Violence in Israel

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat went on television Sunday to call for an end to suicide bombings against Israel. At the same time, he accused the Israelis of`"declaring war'' on the Palestinian Authority. Last week Israel cut off ties to Arafat claiming he had direct responsibility for attacks by militants.

Some South Mississippi Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan by renewing their marriage vows and socializing. They were, however, very aware that half a world away other Muslims continue to bury their dead from what seems to be a never ending conflict with the Israelis. Some Muslims feel the United States can best help the peace process by not taking sides.

"If it's a role that's nonjudgmental or partisan," said Sabree Rashid. "If we go in objectively but if we go in taking a side then I think that would be a mistake by our government to do that."

Arif Kamal said "The United States is the leader of the whole world. I appreciate them trying to bring peace in the region. I think they shouldn't give up."

Some of the students in Jewish Sunday school class at Beth Israel in Biloxi fear for loved ones living Israel. Even those who don't personally know anyone living in the Middle East say they find the violence troubling.

"It's just the acts I feel of a few radicals perhaps on both sides that want to see it continue because they have an agenda," said Jerry Matthews.

"I think it's more one sided than two sided. It's the Palestinians that are not trying to work things out because of the continuing violent acts of terror, the suicide bombings," said Lou Dorfman.

Although the negotiations between the two groups are stagnant no one here seems to be giving up hope for peace.

Kamal said "I still have hope that people will think again that destruction and fighting is not the last answer."

An Israeli spokesman dismissed Arafats's speech as empty rhetoric. He said it was time for Arafat to stop making declarations and to start fulfilling his promises like his promise of a ceasefire after the September 11th attacks.

by Danielle Thomas