To those who are appalled by this most recent bout of carnage in Palestine, let me assure you that we aint seen nothing yet. The international community’s apathetic response to this, Israel’s most recent crime against humanity, will surely embolden Israel to even greater heights of inhumanness, and is reminiscent of our apathy during the Bosnia and Kosovo genocides, the 20th centuries last mass Muslim murders. Some would argue that the world’s apathy, in respect to Palestine, is not a matter of “What can we do?” as in ” We must do something,” but seems to be more the “What can we do?” as in, “Its not our problem.” The general thinking seems to be that since the United States, the mythical “Great Satan” has traditionally managed the Zionist project in Palestine, inherited from the League of Nati! ons, let them continue. After all, who wants al-Qadea blaming them for the deaths of Palestinian civilians, who by the way, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention are a “protected” people. Its interesting that an energetic and international lobby was formed to plea for the humane treatment of al-Qadea and Taliban prisoners in Cuba under the legal cover of this same Convention, yet there are no comparably passionate, or influential voices to be heard in the United States or anywhere else, that plea for the humane treatment of the Palestinian people, or to demand that Israel abide by international law. When NATO bombed Serbia to end its bloody siege of the Albanian Muslim people, Europeans marched in the streets condemning the bombings, even though Serbia’s hands were still dripping with Kosovar, Bosnian and Albanian blood. There are no marches for the Palestinian people, not even in the Muslim and Arab world, and even worse, the Muslim American community has been slow to r! espond to this atrocity, and when it does respond, it is apologetic and pleas for the fair treatment of a personality, rather than a people.
One must ask, “What is it about the people of Palestine that makes it so easy for us to watch them die?” Why is it all right for Israel to re-deploy its troops into the occupied territories and conduct search, kill and destroy missions in private homes, and destroy the frail infrastructure of the refugee camps? There is no legal precept or principle that sanctions either Israel’s actions or our apathy, and no excuse that should prevent us from not only condemning Israel in the harshest of terms, but also from taking steps to end Israel’s siege and providing the Palestinian people the protection afforded them under the Fourth Geneva Convention. To those who argue that Israel is within its rights when it conducts retaliatory strikes against the Palestinians, and that Israel has the right to defend itself, I! ask, “Why don’t the Palestinian people enjoy this same right?” After 35 years of Israeli provocation and revenge employed against these people, we deemed them “terrorists” because Israel called them terrorists, since they struck back at Israel the only way that they could. They spared Israel the ugly job of killing them, and they killed themselves, and that made us hate them even more. We didn’t hate them because they died, but rather because they had the audacity to believe that they are human beings, and that somehow their lives are equal to the lives of the Israelis that died with them. When a shipload of arms was discovered heading for Palestine, the international community was outraged that the Palestinians would seek to secure the necessary arms to defend their lives. The shipment was seized under the claim that if the Palestinians were armed the violence would escalate. No such logic was present as we shipped arms to Israel, even though we knew that their primary tar! gets would be the defenseless people who they are obliged to protect. By law, Israel is a belligerent occupier in the lands it confiscated in the 1967 war, and the Fourth Geneva Convention states that a people under occupation must be afforded certain rights and protections, all of which are denied the Palestinian people. Now the violence has escalated, the Palestinian people are being brutally slaughtered, the Saudi’s are prepared to introduce a plan to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict, but what about the Palestine/Israel conflict? Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders and Arab recognition of Israel does not resolve the problems of a people who have no state of their own, no apparent rights and no official international commitment to their safety, progress or development.
The only reasonable and sane approach, at this juncture, to the ongoing conflict in Palestine, is for the Palestinian people to declare their independence from Israel, and begin a movement towards statehood that is not dependent on the mood of the United Nations, nor Israel’s willingness to abide by U.N. resolutions. Fate has rightly placed the future of Palestine in the hands of the Palestinian people, who must find the courage and faith in God, to be free, and to direct all of their resources toward that end. The time should be over that the same half-baked measures that have served only to prolong the suffering of the Palestinians should continue to be acceptable, the return to Oslo among them. Oslo never offered a solution to the Palestinian people, and a return to Oslo will be a serious tactical erro! r for the Palestinians. There must be progress if any of the carnage that has taken place over the past year and a half is to have any meaning, or the deaths of the people, Palestinian and Israeli, to have served any purpose.
The Muslim American community, and the people of the United States must stand up to Israel and support the Palestinian right to be free, and not be satisfied with a U.N. resolution for the “vision” of a Palestinian state. We must settle for no less than that the people of Palestine be granted their independence from Israel, and their independence be recognized by the international community, and that cease fire be arrived at for the express purpose of conducting negotiations that will focus on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as a pre-condition to any further negotiations. Muslims throughout the world should tolerate no less than that, and we should never accept that Oslo should be the framework for renewed talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, since Oslo does not ! address the human rights of Palestinians, their security, or their right to be free and independent, and to exist within their own territory as a free and sovereign people. The time has arrived for the international Muslim community to come to the aid of the Palestinian people, and raise our voices to protect the al-Aqsa mosque from the politics of both sides in this dispute. We should not accept that anyone other than a trusted and observant Muslim representative be allowed to negotiate the status of al-Aqsa mosque. We must demand that the Palestinians not be forced to the bargaining table under duress, and that Israel immediately withdraw from all territories previously under Palestinian control before a cease fire agreement is accepted, and that Israel withdraw to its 1967 borders before negotiations on the future of Israel, and a newly established Palestinian state can proceed. Until now the people of Palestine have suffered tremendously as the result of Muslim American ! apathy, and the apathy of the conscientious people of the world, including Muslims throughout the world. The time has come for this apathy to end. It is time to free Palestineï¿½for real.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women.