Letters to the Editor

I would like to thank Kyle Spector for his latest column (“Shifting attitudes on Israel,” April 18, p. 4). I think it is very important to put these issues out in the open for a productive exchange of ideas and perspectives.

The occasion of Spector’s column was my protest of last week’s Israel Day at Kogan Plaza, in which I held a sign that read, “Israel Day: Celebrate the theft of Arab culture and land.” I could understand the logic in his reproach of me, as Spector’s entire argument is premised on his misunderstanding of history. Surely if I believed that my sign was untruthful, based on “false claims of ‘theft’,” then I too would admonish such an act. My principal objective has always been to springboard not simply a much needed discourse on the Palestinian struggle, but a discourse based on a full and accurate cognition of both Jewish and Palestinian suffering.

It would be much easier to filter the history of this struggle, and whitewash a slew of injustices, to create a nicely packaged yet thoroughly unrealistic outlook. For example, to deny, as Spector does, that Israel wholesale stole Palestinian land ignores from the equation a dominant source of conflict. Similarly, the same is achieved in insisting that Jewish groups did not ethnically cleanse and commit massacres in dozens of Palestinian villages (“Remember the facts,” April 15, p. 5).

Unfortunately, these atrocities happened and today remain the raison d’etre of the Palestinian struggle. Disregarding them, the conflict would be whittled down to one only against Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Spector’s flowery prescription would make sense, while my protest of Israel Day would not.

However, Israel’s own archives, pervasive with the term “cleanse,” tell of the massacres at Deir Yassin, Saliha, Abu Shusha and countless other villages. Israel’s own documents detail the dispossession of nearly 75 percent of the native Palestinians in order to create a state for a Jewish community that was almost entirely foreign. And in forcing their exile by forbidding the natives’ inalienable right to return, Israel transformed the land regime with its Absentee Property Law, through which the state seized any land whose owners were abroad. In other words, Israel expelled the landowners, kept them out, then punished them for their absence by appropriating their land. This is called “theft.”

By recognizing this full historical context, one does not “see this as a conflict with no end.” On the contrary, only by addressing the injustices of the past can we pave the road to reconciliation and peace.

-Fadi Kiblawi, law student

The full shuttle story

I am writing in response to the April 14 lead story, “MVC Shuttle has fourth accident.” From Sept. 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005, the Foggy Bottom-Mount Vernon Campus Shuttle Service made approximately 56,000 trips between the campuses with nearly 460,000 passengers (duplicated) riding – injury free – during this period. In a given week, this breaks down to 1,800 trips on weekdays and 128 trips on weekends. Given that more and more students are using the Shuttle Service than ever before, a 21 percent increase throughout this academic year alone, I think it is important to provide more perspective to help alleviate any concerns students may have about the safety of the shuttles.

As mentioned in the story’s conclusion, each shuttle in the fleet goes through an extensive, multi-tiered inspection process. Whereas the industry standard calls for a preventative inspection every 12,000 miles, International Limousine Service Inc., the contractor for the Foggy Bottom-Mount Vernon Campus Shuttle Service, conducts a 100+ point inspection every 7,000 miles. Furthermore, the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation inspects shuttles twice annually. Finally, in addition to participating in four safety training sessions each year, all shuttle drivers conduct a pre-trip inspection and a post-trip write-up each time they take the wheel.

The incident on April 12 involved an umbrella either rolling or being left under the driver’s seat where it came in contact with a junction box. Whereas the story reported that the driver’s seat was the source of the smoldering, upon further investigation it was actually the umbrella that was damaged. As a result, shuttles with junction boxes under the seat have since been treated with a rubber application as a further preventative measure. Evaluating why an incident occurred and taking efforts to ensure that it won’t happen again is always a first order of business with the University and International Limousine Service Inc. Passenger safety is a top priority of GW and our shuttle contractor.

The facts show that the three shuttle incidents that occurred during this time, while unfortunate, were unique and isolated. We hope your readers will give full consideration to this information before drawing any conclusions on the strong service record of the Foggy Bottom-Mount Vernon Campus Shuttle Service.

-Robert Snyder, Director of Mount Vernon Campus Life and Marketing

Thank you, Engine 23

In response to the article “A Night on the Town with Engine 23” (April 11, p. 7) I am writing to affirm the significance of the work done by the firefighters from 2119 G Street. My brother Kevin McLaughlin, the freshman injured in the Thurston Hall fire on March 22, owes his life to the bravery and skill of the team of firefighters who responded to the fire; particularly to the one fireman who carried him down nine flights of stairs despite hurting his back and sustaining lung damage from the smoke.

George Washington University is profoundly lucky to have individuals such as these who navigate peril to their own lives in order to protect GW students. However, the University itself is not doing its part in protecting students from fire, and is certainly only making the job of these firefighters more difficult.

Despite flames that were high enough to attract attention from the street and smoke that woke up students down the hall – no fire alarm sounded in Thurston on the night of the 22nd until a neighbor manually pulled the alarm. This is strange considering GW’s claim that it monitors fire alarms in Thurston bi-weekly, and truly unfair to the firefighters who count every minute as precious. The time wasted between when the fire alarm should have gone off and when it actually did sound held the possibility of fatality.

Additionally, Thurston Hall is equipped with sprinklers only in corner rooms and hallways. No sprinkler went off in Kevin’s room that, once again, could have made all the difference in containing the severity of the fire. D.C.’s older buildings, such as Thurston, are not obliged to comply with the same fire codes required of newer buildings. However, as a progressive institution, with a commitment to the well-being of its student residents, GW should voluntarily install sprinklers in every dorm room.

The Thurston Hall fire of 1979 should have informed the University that the 1,050 person-dorm was not properly equipped to handle a fire. Twenty-six years later, the situation is only worse. It is truly lucky that the fire did not occur on a lower floor where it could have spread upwards, endangering hundreds of students.

Were it not for the truly heroic response of the firefighters from the G Street firehouse my brother might not be alive today. The University needs to make a commitment to these courageous men and women and to its students by making fire prevention and containment measures a top priority. I sincerely hope that by the fall of 2005 every room in Thurston will be equipped with a sprinkler and that fire alarms will be functioning as a sign of GW’s active support of these firefighters’ fine work.

-Caity McLaughlin, Georgetown University ’06

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