Time to Eliminate the ‘Fear Factor’

It has been a decade since the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in which nearly 3,000 Americans perished. Needless to say, the world has changed since then and hardly for the better. But one thing we all learned from the United States that day and the days and years that followed is that the “fear factor” is one of the strongest catalysts for irrational change which, unfortunately generates the justification of horrible injustices.

This is a lesson that Israel learned quickly (not that it didn’t know it before). The difference however is that post-9/11, it was offered a green light to milk it completely.

Today, we Palestinians are paying heavily for this fear factor, not only by Israel but by the United States and the mentality its government fashioned for the people in general. You only have to travel to the U.S. to see it. Security at airports, visa complications, metal detectors and an overall feeling of hostility towards that which is “not American” are all indicators of the United States that took root after the towers fell.

As a result, a fear of Muslims, a fear of Arabs and of “terrorists” in general has taken hold in the United States like never before. Former President George W. Bush succeeded in pushing those fear buttons time and again with his people and creating havoc and destruction in places far from Ground Zero, including Palestine. But unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where America took the lead in spreading the destruction, in Palestine it had a lackey, a destroyer-by-proxy, better known as Israel.

I am saying these things today because the truth is, not much has changed over the past 10 years to rectify this. Americans are still wary of Muslims and the Muslim and Arab world is even more wary of America. Here in Palestine, Israel continues to pump up the idea that the Palestinians asked for the hardships they endure because they are, well, Palestinians, Arabs and (mostly) Muslims –” a very bad combination in the new world order. Israelis, they say, have suffered and continue to suffer just like Americans. Israelis, “know” what it’s like to be under attack by the “enemies of freedom” and those who want to “slaughter innocents.” So, just like the United States continued to justify its attack on Afghanistan and then Iraq (which was not even loosely connected with 9/11) Israel joined the team, fighting its own “terrorists” at home.

Those who met their deaths on September 11, 2001 were victims of a cruel, unimaginable attack. But they were not the only ones. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who were killed in the wake of Bush’s war on terror are often forgotten because they are a Muslim and because they are foreign. Palestinians, though not directly involved, have also been vilified by association and continue to pay the price for the fear that day created.

But fear should never become an excuse for even more evil. The United States has a right to defend its citizens just like any other country. Israel also has that right. But that does not give either of them an equal right to kill in the name of freedom and security and to perpetrate fear as a way of sustaining this horrible status quo.

It has been 10 years, an entire decade. So much has come to pass since then, lessons that have not necessarily been learned. I think it is time that the fear factor is put aside and the world looks back at people like us without its tinted glasses. Without the fear or the pretext of fear, the world would run a whole lot smoother.