“Man never does evil so completely and freely except in the name of religion. “
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Is human rights a Western cultural construct? It is certainly not the natural language in the U.S.? But it yet imposes it on the global community in determining selected sanctions or in engaging in hostilities. And even as this is being written, the Bush administration has decided to un-sign the Clinton government’s decision, in its waning days, to sign-onto the Rome convention establishing the International Criminal Court which would be set-up in the Hague to try people charged with committing crimes against humanity or war crimes. Shouldn’t human rights infuse school and college curricula if U.S. leaders claim the moral high ground from roof tops all the time? How can universities push forward on discussing the status and rights of human beings all around the world, including the U.S. itself, today? What role can the Universal Declaration of Human Rights play in peoples understanding and relationship to the world? How we can help people in distress and need, as conscientious fellow human beings?
Consider the situation in Palestine. The fundamental question that Americans must confront in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quite simple: Are Palestinian people deserving of the same human rights accorded Israelis? Or is an Israeli life more important ? Currently, in the second Intifada, the death exchange equation comes to five Palestinian lives for every Israeli; injuries ten times more, and property losses overwhelmingly Palestinian.
A combination of factors – the U.S. corporate/military interest in Israel; the Israeli exploitation of the Holocaust (as Prof. Norman Finkelstein has written exhaustively, there is an entire industry devoted to it); the racism in Israeli society thatocto links the interests of the powerful, European-derived, elites in the U.S, Europe and Israel; the expansionist dream of the Zionists who rule Israel; and finally, the obsessive religious fervor of the fundamentalist Jews and Christians that conflates their joint interest in wanting to maintain a stranglehold on the land of Palestine – account for the relentless persecution of the Palestinian people.
What the Zionists, spearheaded by Sharon, want to do in Palestine – and they are quite candid in admitting to their aims – is not dissimilar to what the white settlers from Europe managed to secure for themselves in the Americas with the concomitant disastrous effects for the native people, and what the Boers strived hard to accomplish in South Africa but failed thanks to a much enlightened world. But by constantly portraying themselves as the victims of unjust hatred rather than as the perpetrators of cruel discrimination, the Zionists of Israel have managed to garner the sympathy of some people, and most importantly of the powerful elite in the United States. So, if history must mean anything, we should take heart in the increasing rejection amongst the world’s people of ethnic cleansing, genocide and gross violation of human rights as they learn the full truth about Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian people. In the modern electronic world, it is becoming difficult for this butcher to hide his evil deeds and escape the scrutiny and wrath of the world for very long. Despite polls indicating that 2/3rds of Americans are critical of the Israeli government’s unrelentingly harsh siege of Palestinian towns and villages, the U.S. Congress has passed a resolution of support for Israel in its fight against “terrorism”. Do the Palestinian people have a chance when their struggle for freedom is mischaracterized as “terrorism” by Israel’s powerful and bountiful step-father? Not satisfied with channeling $ 3 to 5 billion of U.S. taxpayer money to Israel annually, the U.S. Congress wants to add another $ 200 million this year for the “hardships” suffered by its aberrant creation. This, soon after the most devastating invasion of occupied Palestinian land in decades. On no issue is the U.S. Congress so completely out of touch with reality and with its constituents’ views. The blind, one-sided support for the most stridently hawkish government of Sharon is without precedent in the long history of U.S-Israeli alliance. It lends credibility to the rumor that the U.S. Congress is but the Washington branch of the Israeli Knesset. Even more incredibly, there is more debate and dissension to Israel’s harsh policies towards the Palestinians in Israel than in the U.S. The silence of the U.S. Congress, the White House and the State Department at the depraved acts of revenge carried out by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories is deafening. Not a word of remonstration, not a phrase of condemnation. Rare exceptions in Congress opposing the strident pro-Israeli bias from the vast majority of their colleagues are Representatives Cynthia McKinney, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich and others, and Senators like Ernest Hollings, Patrick Leahy and Robert Byrd. The mass street protests at the Israeli storm-troopers rampaging through Palestinian households are drowned in the Zionist-organized support for Israel’s fight against “Palestinian terrorism”. The time honored tactics are at work – demonize the “enemy” so that anything done to it becomes acceptable under the norms of “Western civilized behavior”. It worked against Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. Now it is Yasser Arafat and all the Palestinian people. Nowhere in the discourse is any inconvenient mention made of the 35 year-old occupation of Palestinian land, the uprooting of entire families, the destruction of farms and homes, the total control exercised by the Israeli colonizers of every aspect of Palestinian life. The sheer arrogance with which the Israeli lobby operates in the U.S., making or breaking Congressional careers through its largesse and/or its anti-Semitic baiting of anyone who questions the policies of the current Israeli regime, is truly breathtaking and unparalleled in democratic society.
When will Americans question the integrity and independence of their elected representatives? For if they elect to remain ignorant or unconcerned with world affairs, they will have legislators who represent the interests of very special and highly organized interests, like the Israeli lobby, to the detriment of the interests of the public at large. Consider this – even as the Israeli military was rampaging through Palestinian towns and villages in April 2002, killing, maiming, looting and destroying homes and property in an unrestrained manner (water, electricity, sewer lines uprooted, food and water cut-off from residents for days on end, ambulances shot at and hospitals shelled, schools, colleges and offices occupied with equipment and records scattered and destroyed)- like barbarians of the new millennium- President Bush sent his Secretary of State Colin Powell on a meandering route to the region to try to stop the “violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress led by the pro-Israeli hawks like Sen. Lieberman and Rep. Tom deLay were entertaining the even more extreme (if one can imagine) former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu, who condescendingly hectored them (and the public), as to why the U.S. must unhesitatingly join Israel in its fight against “terrorism” as otherwise, it would be hypocritical of the Bush administration and Congress to claim that the American campaign was truly against terrorism worldwide. All this came in the midst of U.N Security Council resolutions that called on Israel to remove its invading troops from the occupied Palestinian territories and even as President Bush asked Sharon, with a wink and a nod to be sure, to withdraw his forces “immediately, at once”. The green light given to Sharon to continue his dastardly deeds in the occupied territories was only lightly shaded. No one could be fooled by such deception. The two American political parties that have ruled the U.S. since Israel’s creation have little to differentiate them when it comes to policies towards Israel. If anything, they both bend over backwards to accommodate Israeli demands that makes each look even more partial to Israel. Such cringingly subservient behavior from a superpower towards a small state (the size of New Jersey) would be astonishing were it not for the stranglehold of the pro-Israeli lobby on the politics of this country. It operates the second most powerful lobby influencing policy towards the Middle East, obtaining $ 5 billion of U.S aid to Israel each year ($ 1000 per Israeli, more than any tax rebate from the U.S. government to its own citizens). It also ensures the veto of resolutions in the U.N Security Council that are deemed to be contrary to Israel’s interests and campaigns mightily to ensure the defeat of legislators who don’t dance to its beat. Quite naturally, the U.S. Congress is the butt of jokes that call it the U.S. Knesset or the Knesset West. In return, Israel does the bidding of the American military/industrialist interests around the globe, from maintaining the status quo in the Middle East to operating as the U.S. mercenary in other parts of the world where it would be inconvenient or embarrassing for the U.S. to operate openly, such as in Africa, South and Central America, arming dictators who control valuable resources or quelling revolutionaries who threatening to America’s access to natural resources. America’s politicians, its conservative think-tank “experts” and the right-wing religious zealots team-up effectively to make Israel’s case for doing whatever it wants to do, more vociferously and uncompromisingly than Israelis themselves. Israel is America’s partner in crime, or shall we call it, its partner in the endless war against “terrorism”. Decades ago, South Africa played a similar regional role until it’s brutal racism reflected poorly in the politics of America after African-Americans gained their civil rights. And South Africa’s whites had no lobby amongst the U.S. elite. On the other hand, the Israeli-U.S relationship is symbiotic. Israel can depict the Palestinians as “inherently and irredeemably violent” (they are Arabs and mainly Muslims, and so more “acceptably” negatively stereotyped), unlike its like-minded supporters in the Christian West who are inherently “civilized”. Israel’s leaders, present and past, treat the United States, from shore-to-shore, as their second home. They are star attractions at massive fund-raising activities organized by the various Zionist lobbies. Money given to several of their “charities” are tax-deductible. Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres have been on official visits to the U.S. numerous times within the past year. Each of their visits is covered in excruciating detail by the mainstream media ,while one hears little of similar visits to “Emperor” Bush’s Washington court (or his Camp David manor, or his vast country estate in Richardson, Texas) by other world leaders. Besides, even Israel’s former prime-ministers, like Barak and Netanyahu, come and go as they please, having close connections with the U.S. government, military and corporations. They command huge speaking fees on the American speaking circuit. Barak was paid $ 50,000 at a small state university in New Haven in April, for stating how “foolish” and “treacherous” Yasser Arafat was to refuse his magnanimous offer at the Camp David negotiations in July 2000. His speech was even preceded by the singing of the Israeli national anthem and punctuated by cheers of adulation at the recounting of his “brave” exploits in the Israeli army, mainly killing Palestinians and Lebanese people. Israeli leaders seem to camp out here (likely have second homes), have relatives who are U.S. citizens and children attending American colleges. (Israel has a dual citizenship arrangement with the U.S). Besides, all the Israeli politicians are welcome anytime in Washington’s corridors of power. They harangue ignorant American legislators on what is right, and what is wrong in the Middle East. If there is any Congress-person who does not get their message, and do their bidding, the pro-Israeli lobby will make sure that there are severe consequences to such defiance at the next elections.
There are two things that can be inferred from the predominant discourse in the U.S. on the conflict:
1. The Palestinian struggle for freedom is not the issue – it is conveniently subsumed under the “global war against terrorism”. So the public is made to abhor and condemn each and every act of Palestinian resistance because they are all terrorist.
2. Israel can wash itself clean of every brutal action against the Palestinian people because they are all only in response to Palestinian “terrorism”. Besides, Israel’s immaculate military machine makes every effort to “target” only “terrorists” (like they all wear badges) and the only civilians killed or injured are caught in the “cross-fire”, hit by the Palestinians themselves who use them as “shields”, or unfortunate instances of collateral damage.
Nearly 2000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military in 20 months of the Intifada II. Eight-five percent of them have been civilians. Over 20,000 Palestinians have been seriously injured in Israeli attacks. Thirty five percent are children. On May 5, an AP report (that appeared in no major print, TV or audio media) said that a young Palestinian farm mother, Fatma Zaharmeh (30 years old), and her two young children, 4 year-old son Abir, and daughter Bassel, aged 6, were picking grape leaves in the early dawn hours in the vicinity of devastated Jenin. An Israeli tank crew- the military is still all around the Palestinian towns and villages , contrary to assertions that they have withdrawn – claimed to hear a loud noise and thought a mine had gone off. In reality, they were “spooked” by the snapping of a tank tread. The soldiers opened fire in the direction of the mother and her children, killing them instantly. Fatma’s husband, Mohammed, saw the tank turret swivel towards them and pulverize his little girl in front of his eyes. Overcome by the unimaginable grief, he tore at the earth. One Israeli soldier who came to investigate, fainted at the sight of the dead children. Other soldiers soon arrived on the scene, cuffed Mohammed and several others (including women), made them strip to their underwear for interrogation before releasing them. After initially denying that its troops ever commit such dastardly deeds, Israel’s military acknowledged that its soldiers were involved. The army expressed regret and said it would investigate the incident. Amira Haas, the brave correspondent for the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, filed a report on May 11 that provided a first-hand account of the depraved and bestial behavior of the occupying Israeli troops in the West Bank. The soldiers left behind a trail of destruction and degradation like never seen before and that is unprecedented in the annals of modern conflict. In describing her tour of the office (what was left) of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in Ramallah after the occupying troops had finally left, she writes, “..what awaited them (Palestinians and representatives of foreign consulates) was beyond all fears.” “…all the high tech and electronic equipment had been wrecked or had vanished – computers, photocopiers, cameras, scanners, hard disks, editing equipment worth thousands of dollars, television sets…art objects.” “In the department for the encouragement of children’s art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children’s paintings that hung there.” ” In every room of the various departments éliterature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement. There are two toilets on every floor but, the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building.” ” They did their business on the floors,..even in drawers they had pulled out of desks. They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.”
In twenty months of the Intifada, not one Israeli soldier or settler has been charged with unjustly killing or injuring Palestinians or looting and destroying their property. The right-wing extremist doctor from Brooklyn, New York, Baruch Goldstein, who mowed down twenty five Palestinian worshippers in a Hebron mosque before the last Intifada is the only Israeli who has faced any punishment, being shot dead at the site before he could kill even more Palestinians. But his grave is maintained as a shrine by his supporters and even Israeli rabbis speak glowingly of his act. Israel’s long history of oppressive occupation – the severity of the repression and the daily humiliations that need hardly be repeated – is never brought up for questioning. It is certainly not to be regarded as state terrorism to which the Palestinians have responded in every which way they can, and that too, only after finding it interminable and insufferable.
The New York Times’ self-proclaimed and well-connected (to Ariel Sharon no less) pundit, William Safire, wrote on April 11, 2002, that Israel’s military actions against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories was “targeted” and “controlled”, unlike the indiscriminate and inhumane carnage wrought by the Russian military in Chechnya. The mainstream American media accepts the Sharon government’s assertion that its actions are merely “self defense” and part of the same war that America is fighting against “global terrorism”. The U.S. Congress, with rare exceptions, buys this argument wholesale, both for the money funneled-in from the powerful pro-Israeli lobby and the fear of being tainted with the brush of “anti-Semitism” (the white guilt over the Holocaust). In early May, the House (Republican) majority leader Dick Armey of Texas boldly stated on a TV chat show that the Palestinian people could be moved from the occupied territories onto the neighboring Arab lands. After all, there was plenty of room there. This is exactly the Zionists desire and plan of action as well. When offended viewers responded that it smacked of ethnic cleansing (such as the U.S. abhorred in Kosovo and acted swiftly to reverse), Mr. Armey’s office issued a statement retracting what he had said (“he had been misunderstood”). The occupied lands of the Palestinians are not even regarded as such, but treated as “disputed” by the Israeli government and its zealous American supporters. Thus, Israel’s brutal acts against the Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, are not considered to be under the purview of the Geneva Conventions (to which Israel is a signatory). The most recent razing of the Jenin refugee camp almost brought about a U.N investigation. Except, with American help, Israel scuttled it at the last minute. However, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have come to the conclusions that there is credible evidence that Israeli troops committed war crimes and violated Palestinian human rights. They have called for a thorough investigation and prosecution of those found culpable of committing such acts. Needless to say, this is highly unlikely. The ignorance, blindness, bias and fear (of discovering the terrible truth of Israel) of much of the American mainstream media is such that its reporters (sitting in comfortable hotel rooms far from the action) and analysts must not even read the many first-hand accounts of European correspondents, United Nations observers and peace activists on the ground in Palestine, that provide lurid and graphic details of extensive and wanton Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes, farms, schools, hospitals, ambulances, utilities, work places and of the deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians who are mercilessly killed or severely maimed, of the endless curfews, blockades and humiliations at checkpoints. All eerily reminiscent of the Nazi collective punishment inflicted on the Jews of Europe.
The most extraordinary, and revealing, moment of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s fruitless mission to the Middle East in April occurred during one of his meetings with Ariel Sharon. On April 12, after four hours of talks between the two, “Sharon was smiling and avuncular”[Just try to imagine this, from someone whose hands drip with the blood of thousands of innocent Palestinians over five decades, from Qibya to Sabra and Shatila to Jenin]. “When the young Israeli-American woman who was translating his remarks from Hebrew said that Israeli-American friendship ‘will continue’, Sharon corrected her, saying, ‘continue forever’. Moments later, when the translator welcomed Powell to ‘Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people and the United States of Israel (sic)’, the audience exploded in laughter until she corrected herself to ‘united capital of the state of Israel’. Then, in a pointed rebuke to Palestinian hopes for a capital of their own in East Jerusalem, Sharon added, ‘And that’s also forever’.” (New York Times, 13 April, 2002). Anyone who saw the fawning reception to the even more hawkish (!) Israeli ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (also a confidant of William Safire’s) by the U.S. Congress, even as Powell was trying to get a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territory (remember President Bush had said many times already to Sharon, I want the troops out of Palestinian towns “now, immediately”), and saw U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary (from the right-wing of the Bush government (!) who wants to desperately expand the war on “terrorism” to Iraq) Paul Wolfowitz speak at a Zionist organized support “Rally for Israel” in Washington, D.C (April 15), might be forgiven for thinking that the U.S. government is indeed in the pockets of Israeli politicians. When Wolfowitz, temporarily incapacitated perhaps by the heat of the noon-day sun, spoke of the terrible suffering of innocent people on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, he was lustily booed by the audience for even mentioning “Palestinian suffering” in the same breath as “Israeli suffering”.
The Palestinians are like the native people of the Americas. As the original inhabitants of this land were summarily dispossessed and displaced by whites from Europe, so have the Palestinians been treated, standing in the way of the Western-dominated white Zionists of Israel. This might explain, in part, the U.S. elites reflexive support for the Israeli colonizers. But a significant proportion of the American population is coming to recognize the inherent bestiality of what Zionism has wrought over half-a-century of oppression in Palestine. Recently, a poll conducted by Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport, Conn., found that 70% of those questioned supported a U.N investigation of what really happened in the devastated Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin (during the Israeli invasion of several towns and villages on the West Bank in April 2002). The U.N Relief coordinator on site called the destruction “horrific beyond belief.” Nearly 40% polled nationwide (April 3, CNN/USA Today/Gallup) said the U.S. should apply strong pressure on Israel to stop its military action against the Palestinians. But the U.S. government and Congress have been accomplices of Israel in its belligerent occupation of Palestinian lands since that country’s creation. The annual handout to each Israeli citizen from American taxpayers amounts to $ 1,000, no questions asked. The U.S. funds Israel’s arms purchases (the most powerful army in the Middle East, stronger than all the Arab armies combined and the fourth strongest in the world) and even provides loan guarantees for the ceaseless building of Jewish settlement on prime occupied Palestinian land. The Israeli peace group, B’Tselem, announced on May 13 after a detailed study that over 400,000 Jewish settlers now control 42% of all the occupied territories. The U.S. administration blocks any effort by the U.N to resolve the conflict since Israel has no real intention of giving-up any of the captured land in return for peace. It also covers-up for Israeli war crimes against Palestinians that have occurred with regularity for far longer than the current Intifada. Palestinian suicide bombings are clearly the expressions of the most desperate of an utterly oppressed people resulting from utmost frustration of a people who feel they have nothing more to lose. Terror as a tactic has been used by both Israeli groups (before 1948)/Israeli government (1948-present) and the Palestinian resistance groups. But the scale of the Israeli terror against Palestinians is overwhelming and over a longer period of time. “Terror” is applied to resistance groups but not to states. Israel uses the word as a pejorative to describe all acts of opposition by the Palestinians to Israeli repression. In South Africa, the white apartheid governments labeled Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress “terrorist”. The Nazis described the French Resistance in occupied France as “terrorist”. Colonizing powers have commonly described resistance to occupation as “terrorist”. As the famous British historian, Arnold Toynbee, wrote in 1971, “What is peculiar about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the world has listened to the party (Israel) that has committed the offense and has turned a deaf ear to the victims (Palestinians).
Ariel Sharon is called a “man of peace” by the U.S. President Bush. How much more grotesque can it get? Imagine Hitler, Mobuto, Pinochet and Suharto being called “men of peace”? Israel has defied seventy plus U.N. Resolutions governing its illegal and belligerent occupation of Palestinian land. But unlike Baghdad, Belgrade and Kabul, there will not be bombs raining down on Tel Aviv. The psychotic, pathological killer Sharon has coopted the U.S government and public opinion here into classifying his ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as a “war against terrorism”. The latter has provided him a convenient platform to get the support of the Bush administration. As Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote in the Guardian (UK) of April 29, the Palestinians are like the black South Africans during apartheid, segregated in isolated Bantustans, surrounded by Jewish settlements. The Sharon government is the spitting image of the apartheid regime. And yet, the U.S. Congress, on May 2, passed non-binding resolutions of support for Israel by large majorities. A week later it was rewarding Israel with an emergency, unrestricted aid of $ 200 million, because, as a majority of Congress sees it, Israel is a “Western-style democracy” (How many styles of democracy are there? And is a country in which one religious group, the Jews, has exclusive rights, a democracy?), and the Sharon government is fighting a war against “terrorism” just like the U.S is. It is bad enough to watch silently when such evil is being done to the Palestinian people. But to condone it, aid and abet in its perpetration, to cover up the evil and prevent the truth from ever coming out – such are the unconscionable, despicable acts of a country and its plutocrats who claim to represent the highest aspirations of “freedom and justice”. While the ruling class in the U.S. uses Israel as a cat’s paw in the oil rich Middle East, it also finds it psychologically acceptable, even satisfying, to see Israel’s white elite behaving in its image. After all, the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine is a project that seeks to emulate the European genocide of the Native Americans in the Americas. From elementary school on, Americans learn to celebrate the “achievements” of the pilgrims and the conquerors of this continent, with little by way of respect for the lives and culture of the people who already lived here. The popular image of Native Americans as “savages”, “backward”, “ignorant”, “dastardly”, has been so insidiously dunned into American heads through the ages by the media, popular culture and even text-books that there is not even a second thought given to their almost complete disappearance. Even worse is the disgracefully overt racism that is so openly accepted by Americans in abusing symbols and customs of Native Americans in a degrading manner, especially by sports (the “all American” pastime) teams. A century from now, will it be a similar sight in Israel’s soccer league to find the Tel Aviv “Intifadas” playing against the Jerusalem “al-Naqbas”? It will not come to pass, if people of conscience have anything to do about it.
The Hartford Courant reported (April 11, 2002) in a front page article accompanied by two telling photographs – one showing an anguished Israeli widow grieving over the coffin of her dead soldier-husband in the Israeli assault on Jenin, and another of a grim-faced, fist-thumping, extreme right-wing Israeli ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu in the U.S. Congress criticizing Secretary of State Colin Powell’s peace efforts – had these headlines to tell its readers of the latest developments from the region :
“On Eve of Powell’s Trip, Sharon Digs in His Heels”
“Suicide Bombing: Eight Israelis Killed on Bus in Haifa”
“Congress: Netanyahu Finds Support for Israel”
There was no screaming headline on the utter devastation of Jenin by the Israeli army. There were no bylines on the vice-like siege and blockade of several Palestinian towns and refugee camps for days on end. In Jenin, the Israeli army carried out its evil outside the sight of the world’s media, declaring it a “military zone”. But humanitarian agency staff and Palestinians who were holed-up in this living hell spoke of people buried alive in their homes by Israeli bulldozers or shot as they scurried to safety. Others were used as shields by the Israeli troops in hose-to-house searches. Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances were prevented from attending to the injured and many bled to death on the streets or in their homes of their gun-shot wounds. The strict round-the-clock curfew prevented any movement of the besieged Palestinian population to get help or essential necessities. Water, electricity, telephone and sewer lines were deliberately destroyed by the rampaging Israeli tanks. Estimates of the dead are in the hundreds and of the damage to Palestinian property , $ 2 to 4 billion. The U.S government (imagine that) got unanimous support for its proposal that the U.N. Security Council investigate what happened in Jenin, and even Israel’s shameless Nobel Peace laureate and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that his government had nothing to hide in Jenin. What could one hide from those who had full use of their senses – the eyes could see the dead and the devastated, the noses could smell the stench of those buried beneath the earthquake-strewn rubble that was all around, the ears could hear the wails of the utterly disconsolate, distraught and helpless mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, the mouth could hunger for the water and food denied by Israeli troops for days, and the fingers could feel the careworn faces, the lifeless limbs and the powdery dust of what was once even just a refugee camp.
The shifty, crooked Peres had clearly spoken too soon because the U.N mission proved to be dead before arrival as Sharon decided it might not be sensible, after all, to have a full accounting of his army’s dastardly deeds in Jenin. Hardly surprising coming from this corpulent leader whose entire career is a catalogue of crimes worthy of the Third Reich. While some editorials (including the Hartford Courant) urged a full Israeli cooperation with the U.N investigation of the devastation of Jenin, there was no long-term damage to this bastion of “democracy”. Neither was the obvious doublestandard made much of, in the comparison with Iraq’s defiance to letting-in more intrusive U.N. weapons inspection teams. The Bush administration was recklessly, and illegally, making plans to bomb and invade Iraq, but no sanctions were in the offing against Israel (which has the unenviable record of being the most contemptuously defiant nation, having ignored over 70 U.N resolutions with no ill effects to show for it). No bombing of Israel’s biological, chemical or nuclear arsenals. On the contrary, Israel was to be rewarded with even more aid from its fawning Congressional supporters. Such was the disgusting sight in Congress that, other than a handful of conscientious Representatives and even fewer Senators, these elected officials were falling over each other in seeing who could make the better grandstanding speech that lauded Israel, its “great democracy” and its “common goals with all Americans” in the global war against “terrorism”. There was no mention of the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations for freedom, the enormity of their plight over half-a-century, and their appalling condition through the relentless and massive Israeli assaults on every aspect of their lives and livelihoods. Their leaders were all “terrorist”. All forms of Palestinian resistance to Israeli oppression is labeled “terrorist”, and perversely, the systematic targeted killing of Palestinians and destroying of Palestinian homes and farms by Israel is called “legitimate self-defense”. Palestinians were not regarded as human beings who could care and have aspirations and desires much like us. All the suffering was Israeli. Demonizing and then attacking has become a time-honored American technique to brainwash its citizenry and assail its opponents. Countries which refused to be dominated by U.S. imperialism earlier were labeled “godless communists” or “communist-sympathizers”. That was enough for the utterly innocent American to see the evil that would no doubt emanate from such societies. It certainly had to be combated, from Vietnam to Cuba. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the embrace of a state-dominated market capitalism by China, the bogeyman of “communism” (or even “socialism”) is not useful anymore. A new one was necessary to carry on the mission of the multinationals, to dominate and pillage the world. “Global Terrorism” – preferably with the prefix “fundamentalist” and “Islamic” – is the choice du jour that enables the U.S. and its allies to further their mission to dominate the world. The continuing need was to convey an image of Israeli loss and distress to people who were reminded of the common (Judeo-Christian) bonds that linked Americans and the Jews of Israel. It was Israel, a righteous, law-abiding and peace-seeking society (in the image of America’s “white” elite), that was besieged and buffeted by the darker (bearded, covered thus “sinister”), Islamic, “fanatic”, “fundamentalist” (it is pejoratively used when associated with “Islamic”, but not when associated with “Christian”, as across the U.S.A) Arab neighbors and the “terrorist” Palestinians. When Netanyahu said, “Yasser Arafat’s terrorist regime must be toppled [ as though anything existed after the brutal invasion of the West Bank], not courted. The Oslo agreements are dead. Yasser Arafat killed them [no mention of the continual building of Jewish settlements]”, he found broad support for his hateful, imbecilic utterances from U.S. Senators and Representatives. Senator Joe Lieberman’s spokesman, Dan Gerstein, spoke for most of them when he commented, “He [i.e the Senator] agrees with Netanyahu a lot.” On April 14, the sanctimonious Senator himself (speaking to the Florida State Democratic Conference delegates) asked, “[How can President Bush] credibly continue to do what we must do, search for and destroy the remaining al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan – and all over the world – while demanding that the Israelis must stop doing exactly that in the West Bank?”(The Hartford Courant, April 15, “Lieberman: Blasts U.S Pressure on Israel”). He was joined in his criticism of the White House, for possibly “losing the moral high ground” with demands that Israel pull back its troops from the West Bank, by Senator John Kerry (D, Mass). Both Senators are vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2004, already. Such is the influence of the Israeli lobby. Lieberman is well known for his strict adherence to the precepts and practices of his orthodox Jewish faith. He is famous for wearing morality on his sleeve. Southern Florida is a retirement haven for pro-Israeli Jews and their supporters (like the maniacal anti-Castro, right-wing Cubans around Miami.
There is no comparison between the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan (even without supporting it) and the Israeli war against the Palestinian people. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land since the 1967 War is manifestly illegal. It is state terrorism pure and simple. From daily humiliations at innumerable checkpoints, to killings and maimings, to razing homes and farms. But there is nary a word of criticism of all such brutal acts from the U.S. Congress or the White House, which claim their own legitimacy in the white-settler resistance to British imperialism two and half centuries ago. It is the legitimate and internationally recognized right of a people under occupation to resist occupation. Americans must forcefully reject the blatantly one-sided condemnation of Palestinian terrorism (the suicide bombings) by their leaders and media analysts. Or else American claims of being supporters of freedom, peace and human rights will ring hollow. Americans of goodwill, and there are many around the country who are silent for fear of being labeled “anti-Semitic”, must oppose their politicians shameless pandering to the “Jewish vote” that also results in their complicity in Israeli crimes. They must demand, instead, fairness in understanding the historic grievances of the Palestinian people and a just resolution of their conflict with Israel through the strict and expeditious enforcement of U.N resolutions governing the conflict, if necessary, under threat of force. An immediate deployment of international troops to keep the marauding Israeli military off Palestinian lands is essential to saving the tragic toll of lives.
Israeli lives are humanized – their anguish is on full display after every suicide bombing. Israel’s voluble, if irrational, spokesmen are interviewed incessantly on the media to vilify the Palestinians. Their righteous anger at every Palestinian act of resistance is given a respectful hearing. Israeli complaints, such as being fearful of going out to shop, enjoy the night life, are made to resonate with “American” desires and habits, thus garnering further sympathy for Israel’s “plight”. No inconvenient mention of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land for thirty-five years. For nearly two years, Palestinians have been subjected to long periods of blockades, sieges and inconveniences that make Israeli “suffering” pale into insignificance. But for Israel’s sake, the image of Jews as eternal victims is preserved, whatever the harsh realities of Palestine. Hitler’s “final solution” for the Jews is being transformed into Israel’s “final solution” for the Palestinians.
“Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Dr. Sadanand Nanjundiah is a Physics Professor at Central Connecticut State University.