"Rashid," I said to Rashid Khalidi at a Washington forum last week, "what about these terrible things that the Arabs keep saying about the Israelis? What about them? Why does it go on? That troubles me forever and no doubt others greatly." I was referring to the stream of hate-breathing, hate-breeding, antisemitic anti-Israel propaganda flowing constantly, in Arabic, from Palestinian sources. The flow burdens diplomatic dealings and has itself become an object of contention between Palestinians and Israelis. "What is it about?" I asked Khalidi, a Middle East historian at the University of Chicago as well as an adviser to the Palestine National Council.

"When you have terrible things being said," he told a gang of us collected by the Middle East Institute, "they're said for reasons. There is a view that there is some eternal wellspring of hostility to Israel or to Jews, in Islam or in the Arab world or among Palestinians. And while I wouldn't want to argue that there is no such thing as antisemitism or that antisemitism hasn't affected the Arab world, I don't think that the hostility that has developed toward Israel in the last 50 years is a result of some transcendent wellspring, that it's rooted in something that cannot be addressed.

"In fact, it comes from issues. It comes from specific things that have been done at specific times and places, and the way in which these things have been perceived in the Arab world. Going back to 1948, the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem by the expulsion of approximately half the Arab population created a wound in the Arab psyche and a resentment among Arabs that people have steadfastly refused to address. Treating the refugee problem as an adjunct to the political problem has not just hurt and alienated the Palestinians, 6 million of them today. It's perceived throughout the Arab world as one of the core issues . . .

"I'm not arguing that only one side's view of this issue is important, but I am arguing that the issues do have to be addressed. And what has happened in the last 30 years -- the way in which the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has affected Palestinians -- also has to be taken into account . . .

"{The claims that Arabs speak differently to Arabs in Arabic than to others in English come from} people who do not themselves know Arabic. {Israelis and others} who do and who read the vast bulk of the Arab press and who listen to the vast range of statements very rarely make these arguments. They would say, yes, there is in this corner of the Arab press and in this segment of political statements by Arab leaders and in this number of speeches in mosques in the West Bank hostility to Israel, or nastiness. And then in this other segment, the vast majority of it, the same thing is being said in Arabic as is being said in English -- things that are not particularly objectionable. . .

"There are some nasty, vicious Palestinian leaders and Arab leaders who say nasty and vicious things, not just about Israel or about Zionism but about Jews. They exist in many places. But do they represent the broad range of opinion in the Arab world? Well, frankly, I don't think they do . . .

"I don't think that hearts and minds are irrelevant. They're supremely important, but the way to address them is through addressing the issues honestly. I mean the way in which Jerusalemites have been treated, the way in which Palestinian national aspirations in Jerusalem have been treated, is calculated to lead Arabs to devalue the Israeli or the Jewish connections to Jerusalem. The argument that Jerusalem is not important to Muslims or that Palestinians have no national rights in Jerusalem is systematically propagated and is guaranteed to lead to insecurity and a countervailing delegitimation. And that's why what {fellow panelist and former diplomat} Phil Wilcox just said about the two sides somehow figuring out a way to accept each other's aspirations is ultimately the only way to proceed."

Khalidi's is an intellectual's response with its own insight and courage. Still, no set of historical or political grievances can excuse the official peddling or winking at what remains a peace-crushing hate. The stuff must be hammered at, not just regarded as a regrettable part of the landscape. The assertion that it comes just from the Palestinian fringe is contested by the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby, who found that an Israeli media institute had combed just about every public Palestinian word spoken in Arabic for a year without finding a single word of peace. The example of Egypt, which is formally at peace with Israel but whose media are rarely at a loss for a scurrilous word, is relevant and discouraging.

The core of Khalidi's message, nonetheless, strikes me as inarguable. Hearts and minds count. Hearts and minds can be moved, though not easily or quickly or completely, by wise public policy. This is the rationale for civil speech. Without it, forget about Mideast peace.