Israel often prides itself on being the only democracy in the Middle East. It strives to get US public support by boasting of the shared ideals between Israel and the US. The problem with this information is that we have important differences in values. Let’s begin with the First Amendment, which advocates freedom of speech and freedom of association.
This most fundamental freedom has been completely defaced and thrown out the window as it pertains to Palestinians. If Palestinians have any sort of affiliation to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or Hamas, they are fair game for assassination operations which often result in the killings of bystanders. The recent missile attack designed to assassinate alleged Hamas activists killed two children. The US government called these attacks “reprehensible.” Israel, which receives more than $4 billion in US taxpayer dollars, told our government it would continue.
Some Israelis are going to argue that the US and European countries condemning the extra-judicial killings are not subjected to the dangers of suicide bombings and Palestinian attacks. But Palestinians can argue that the US and European countries are not subjecting an entire population to a brutal occupation, as they have endured. The Oslo Accords, in fact, offered no reprieve from the Occupation. Illegal Israeli settlements continued to be built; Palestinian homes continued to be demolished; Israeli torture of Palestinians continued despite a ban by Israel’s own High Court of Justice; closures were still imposed; checkpoints remained; and freedom to travel, even in cases of medical emergencies, was restricted.
Now, the Israelis are acting as prosecutors, judges, and executioners because they say people are members of groups opposed to this Occupation. Have they ever provided evidence? Do they realize that the people they are assassinating are fathers, uncles, and brothers? That their families have been destroyed?
Can we imagine, as Americans, if the US Government were to begin assassinating members of the Michigan militia? Imagine that Secretary Rumsfeld and President Bush were to sign off on firing missiles on their homes or meeting locations. How would we feel about this? Weren’t many Americans outraged at the events in Waco and Ruby Ridge? Those deaths were not even intentional. Weren’t many Americans upset with the CIA in the 1980s, which sponsored death squads in El Salvador? So, why are we calmly accepting Israel’s justifications for assassinating Palestinians it says are members of terrorist groups? American-made weaponry is being used to kill people who haven’t even been tried before a jury. This is another concept that we, as Americans, value. Due process under the law.
We didn’t demolish the home of Timothy McVeigh’s parents after his terrorist action led to the murders of many innocents. People are held accountable for their own crimes. But in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, homes are regularly demolished as punishment a son’s criminal activity. Why are people who had nothing to do with their son’s decisions going homeless? Our nation has condemned this act. Israel says it will continue. It is interesting to note that when Yigal Amir assassinated the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he was afforded a trial and his family’s home was not demolished. In Israel, they have full due process. As do the Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
If you are a Palestinian Christian or Muslim living under Israeli Occupation, you are afforded justice as Israel deems appropriate. Though residents of Occupation are generally afforded the protection of international law, the Israeli government doesn’t seem to believe in this either. Note that collective punishment, which violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, is alive and well in the Palestinian territories. Cities have been placed under siege for 11 months. Children are unable to go to schools, people are unable to go to their jobs, medication cannot get to needy Palestinian hospitals, and Palestinians are unable to defend themselves from Israeli gunship helicopters and missiles. They cannot get protection from international observers because it is Israel who is the ultimate decision maker on this issue. Ironic, given that it is the Israelis that the Palestinians want protection from.
They cannot even live a day without fear of being killed for possibly having an affiliation to a group that Israel says is terrorizing them. Apparently, they are not recognizing the terror they have inflicted on Palestinians for several decades. Terror, that we, as Americans, would find abhorrent and reprehensible if it were being done to other fellow Americans.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.
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