Nothing seems more frustrating than having strong opinions on a subject but being unable to get the message to those who mean the most. In my case, it’s the subject of the Middle East and in particular, the brutal and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
This frustration is multiplied ten fold when opposition forces are free to deliver their messages almost on a daily basis while our voices are ordered in silence. You see, we don’t have the Dianne Feinstein’s, or the Tom Lantos’, or the Joseph Lieberman’s or the Robert Wexler’s or the Charles Schumer’s or the Richard Perle’s or the Paul Wolfowitz’ and so on. We don’t have these kind of representatives and political leaders who have free access to the president, the State Department, the National Security Advisor, and many other influential offices and officials. We don’t have these kind of people introducing new legislation and influencing decisions that determine Middle East policy. We don’t have the luxury of “political correctness” on our side. It makes our job much more difficult and creates much more frustration, but that’s something I’m willing to put up with. That’s something that goes with the job. Someday our efforts will be rewarded. Until then, we have to fight an uphill battle. But in the long run our success will be that much more rewarding.
It seems that almost on a daily basis someone in Congress is introducing some kind of legislation in condemning Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, or another referendum in support and solidarity with Israel. Just last month our Congress approved another $200 million increase in military aid for Israeli weapons to be used to slaughter more innocent Palestinians and to demolish more refugee camps while at the same time condemning the Palestinian Authority in their attempt to secure one small shipment of arms and weapons from Iran in order to provide a means of self defense. After all, AK-47’s are no match against F-16 fighter jets, or Apache and Cobra gun–ships, or armored plated bulldozers, or Israeli Merkava tanks. It was like the Palestinians committed the sin of all sins.
Our Congress is not the only pro-Israeli voices heard on the hill. Whenever the mention of a Palestinian State is brought up, the President echoes the same rhetoric, time after time, “I still am disappointed in Arafat’s leadership. He needs to cut off the terrorist activities and must first show he is serious about ending the violence.” What about Israeli violence Mr. President? What about the illegal occupation and the the confiscation of more Arab land each and every day while building more and more illegal Jewish settlements? What about the killings of young Palestinian mothers and their 13 year-old daughters? Or what about the mother and her two young sons killed for no other reason than for “looking suspicious?” I still haven’t figured out how 5-year-old boys can “look suspicious.” What about this violence? Is it only violence when it’s against Jews? Why don’t we hear Diane Feinstein or Tom Lantos talk about this violence? Could it be that their one-sided support that has shielded Israeli crimes for decades be the major reason for the continued violence? Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen peace in the Middle East? Maybe the real perpetrators of violence in the Middle East are not in the Middle East after all? Maybe they’re right here in our own backyard. And maybe it’s time they start answering a few questions. Nothing would make me happier than to get an opportunity to present some of my major concerns to all of our leading politicians form Congress to the President, with the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor in between. They would be subjected with questions and facts that journalists or news commentators would dare impose.
When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 the Palestinians had some hope of a Palestinian State and some hope of a lasting peace. The Oslo Accords was supposed to halt any further expansion of illegal settlements and any further confiscation of Arab land. On the contrary, the illegal settlements have more than doubled, from just under 200,000 to more than 400,000 and are even expanding at a faster rate under Ariel Sharon than ever before. When Palestinians realized that their hopes were fading fast, they began an uprising in September 2000. The current violence in the Middle East is not caused from this uprising but caused from desperation from the continued illegal and brutal occupation and from years of human rights violations committed by the Israeli government. Included in this list of human rights violations is a report by Amnesty International in its 1999 annual report, one year prior to the beginning of this latest intifada. The report states that “the Israeli authorities have demolished at least 2,650 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, because they did not have a building permit. As a result 16,700 Palestinians (including 7,300 children ) have lost their homes.” The Israeli government has always used building permits as justification to demolish Palestinian homes but the “catch 22” element is that the Israelis only issue building permits to Jews only. The report goes on to say “The demolition of Palestinian homes and the denial of opportunity to build legally are related to a policy of land confiscation from private Palestinian ownership which is then used exclusively for Israeli development. Discriminatory laws prevent non-Israelis from leasing confiscated land.” A follow-up Amnesty International Report also stated “The Palestinians are targeted for no other reason than because they are Palestinians. The demolition of their houses is in no doubt linked with Israeli discriminatory policy to restrict Palestinian development to existing urban areas. For Israelis, it is a different story. They have few problems obtaining building permits and even if they build homes without authorization, their houses are rarely, if ever, demolished. Amnesty International believes that the policy of house demolitions is a grave human rights violation against the Palestinian residents of the West Bank.”
Since this report was written in December 1999, the number of innocent Palestinian homes demolished has almost doubled to 4700, causing more than 30,000 men, women, and especially children to become homeless with very little clothing and food.
Why hasn’t Congress or why hasn’t the President been forced to justify these crimes? Why is it that Representative Tom Lantos or Senator Dianne Feinstein are never questioned about these abuses? Why are these crimes not dealt with by our State Department or out National Security Advisor. They never hesitate a minute to condemn the Palestinians for violence. Why is it that our government allows Israeli authorities to demolish innocent people’s homes?
This is why I am frustrated and this is why these violations must be brought to the attention of the American people. Would our Congress allow any other country in this hemisphere to demolish even one Jewish home, let alone 4700 homes? Would our President stand by and do nothing if similar abuses were performed on Jews living in other countries? Why is it that our government ignores these crimes with such obvious intent not to irritate the “political correct?” It’s time for all good people to demand an answer. It’s time to speak out against Israeli crimes and end this silence of the lambs. Wake up everybody!
James J. David is a retired Brigadier General and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and the National Security Course, National Defense University, Washington DC. He served as a Company Commander with the 101st Airborne Division in the Republic of Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 and also served nearly 3 years of Army active duty in and around the Middle East from 1967-1969.