Ray Hanania’s Column
I am only one observer. And I am also a Palestinian. So I am not completely objective when it comes to deciding who did what to whom.
But facts are facts. And during a recent trip to Palestine, I witnessed the Israelis intentionally provoke violence and confrontations with peaceful Palestinians protesters.
Last March, I spent 10 days in Al-Bireh, the northern-most suburb of Ramallah, staying at the Best Eastern Hotel.
From my hotel window, I could hear the crackling of gun-fire and occasionally, the boom of a helicopter gunship, tank cannon or heavy arms fired by the Israelis.
I attended several of the peaceful protests organized by the Palestinian National Authority and the many Palestinian NGO groups there, and saw firsthand how the Israeli soldiers would open fire on them first with deadly tear gas canisters, and then with even deadlier so-called “rubber coated” bullets.
In each instance, it was the same. The protesters would march to the spot on the road that Israeli had destroyed to disrupt Palestinian civilian travel between cities and villages — one of an assortment of collective punishment techniques applied by the Israelis to harm the Palestinian civilians as a people.
When they approached and called on Israel to re-open the roads so they could resume their commerce, the Israeli soldiers, who were safely positioned some 200 yards away up the slopes of steep hilltops, and usually hiding behind the Palestinian homes they forcibly confiscated.
That’s why I was surprised when the United States joined Israel and vetoed a United Nations resolution to send a United Nations observer force to witness these same events.
The issue at hand is whether or not the Palestinians or the Israelis are provoking the violence and the confrontations.
It is so important that a handful of American Congressmen and Senators who all receive huge cash contributions from the Israeli lobby in this country, signed a letter blaming the violence on the Palestinians.
I thought that odd, considering that none of those courageous Congressmen and Senators had taken the time to visit the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But that is what we come to expect from a biased U.S. Congress that is more interested in paying homage to a wealthy pro-Israeli clientele that generously donates to their political campaign coffers than to the truth.
Sadly, the U.S. Congress is Israeli-occupied territory, too!
The worst part is how easily the Arab world adapts to this environment of biased, untruthful politics.
Recently, a U.S. Senator from Illinois, Peter Fitzgerald, told an Arab audience how objective he was and that while he some disagreements with our political positions, we could “agree to disagree.”
And immediately, Arab leaders hungry to be associated with his powerful office — a U.S. Senator is a powerful position — they turned a blind eye to some of the most outrageous views ever expressed in the U.S. Senate.
For example, although Fitzgerald said that the Israelis and Palestinians should determine the final details of a peace accord, the Senator didn’t mind sponsoring a bill to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, on land that was confiscated by Israeli from Palestinians with American citizenship.
Even when the victims are Americans, Senators like Fitzgerald still insist on placing Israel’s interests first.
Arabs must stop acquiescing to the bigotry of the West by accepting these biased, and anti-Arab positions. They must stop falling into the trap of arguing with emotion rather than fact.
If Senator Fitzgerald continues to insist that the U.S. embassy must be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an occupied terroritory captured in violation of the Geneva Conventions that the U.S. has imposed on every country except Israel, then we Arabs must oppose Fitzgerald. We must support those who are fair and objective and willing to reason, even when those candidates cannot win. The fact is, eventually these candidates will win. And by denying Fitzgerald support, we weaken his chances of re-election.
Politics is a long term process. By why should we care? The Palestine conflict has been going on for more than a half century, and we have been on the losing side.
The arguments for a United Nations Observer Force in the West Bank is one that is winnable, if Palestinians would spend some time focusing on the issues, and developing a strategy to articulate it clearly and compelling to an American audience.
Too often, we Arabs and Palestinians find it so easy to tell our story to ourselves, and we are incapable of making our case to the real audience we must target, the Americans.
The fact that the United States vetoed the resolution is the point of our gathering, arguing intelligently to Americans that the veto contradicts their best interests for security and world peace.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to MMN. His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)