Sir: Your Mr Gale prompts me to write again; I see (`Viewpoint', 28 February) he has been to Amman. So many journalists and politicians spend a day or two in Am- man and other Arab capitals, a half-day or so with the guerrillas, a few hours in Jerusalem, then come back to England and write a very erudite 'I know all' article on the complex headache of Israel and her neighbours. May I write a few lines on the Palestine Refugee problem?
I worked and lived for about two years in a number of large Arab villages in Israel, along the border with Jordan. As a doctor I got to know the people intimately—I went Into their homes, had meals with them, at- tended their ceremonies and feasts, had long discussions (we talked for hours on end), all this apart from my medical work as family and school doctor. In this way I got to know many teachers, farmers and agricultural workers, shopkeepers, building workers. doc- tors, pharmacists and nurses, clerical workers and so on. They were all very hospitable and very, very good talkers. There came a time when I felt sufficiently intimate with my dear Arab friends to ask of them: 'how is it that you are here at all? You are all here in your ancient villages, you are building and expanding, you are happy and well—how is this? Why did you all not run away in fear, when the State of Israel was established? I do not understand.' It was carefully explained to me that they and their fathers and their forefathers had lived in their places for centuries; that there had been no need to run away, that they had never had anything to fear and that they were living in peace and amity and were thriving, as Arabs were in so many other areas in Israel. It was further explained to me that at the turn of the century there were in fact not many Arabs in this part of the world, barren, eroded and neglected as it then was. It was only when the Jewish pioneers came and began to clear and drain, cultivate and con- serve and disinfect these large uninhabited areas, that Arabs from other regions began to come in, and it was those Arabs who dashed off when Israel was established. It was very carefully explained to me that had these people had any roots, they would not have run off in the way they did, but would have stayed put, as my friends did.
I need not detail how the Arab refugee problem has been used as a political stick to beat the beleaguered State of Israel, by Arab politicians and by certain English gentlemen, who seem to burn because the Jews have a little piece of land of their own, and can hold up their heads as Jews for the first time in many centuries.
Archibald Tober 134 Woodwarde Road, Dulwich, London SE22