Archive for December, 2001

My Friend Asked a Question

December 23, 2001

By Samia Khoury
Sunday, December 23, 2001

Yesterday I received a message from an American friend of mine which ended with a question: Why is the Palestinian violence considered terrorism, whereas the Israeli violence is not?” The suicide bombing in Jerusalem and Haifa had not taken place yet, and I did not think she expected an answer because she knew very well what the situation is like here. She had lived in the country at one time, and has been here also after the Israel occupation.

Yet it is a question that warrants an answer, especially after those horrible scenes in Jerusalem and Haifa. And you know why: because good, genuine people get taken for a ride by the language of the powerful. The narrative becomes lopsided and so does the media. Therefore, it is very natural that, in a country like the USA, violence by Palestinians is looked upon as “terrorism” whereas the state violence by Israel is considered “security measures.”

After the recent address by Mr. Colin Powell at the University of Louisville, Kentucky in which he announced that there should be a Palestinian State and that new envoys would be coming to the region to help bring back the parties to negotiations, Mr. Sharon put a condition of seven days quiet before negotiations would start again. How ironic that he should put this condition and at the same time wage a war-like incursion on Palestinian towns. This caused many killings during one week, including five children, to whose killings the USA expressed regret, but no condemnation. How did he expect the “one-week quiet” to come about after all these brutal attacks? Or are these killed Palestinians not humans in the eyes of Sharon and the West?

Also in his address, Mr. Powell put more than ten “musts” for the Palestinians: stopping the violence was one priority. I do not think that he forgot that it is Israel which is occupying the Palestinian Territories, and thus the violence, because he also said that Israel must withdraw from the Occupied Territories. But how does he plan to go about it, when Israel has defied every UN resolution pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, except for the one calling for the establishment of the State of Israel?

The veto power which the USA has continuously used certainly gave Israel the backing to act above international law. If violence is not to be condoned, then no violence can be justified. If the Israelis justify their violence for security reasons, then the Palestinians justify their violence as resistance to the occupation, a legitimate right by international law. No people can continue to be oppressed, their lives at the mercy of a brutal occupation, their homes demolished, and their fields and groves bulldozed, and their daily trip to work or to school hindered by barricades and endless checkpoints with the rate of unemployment rising daily.

All these measures for the last 34 years were bound to cause an explosion and violent acts. It is simple physics: for every action there is a reaction. And the Israelis should know better not to allow people to become so desperate. It is truly scary when people become desperate, for they have nothing to lose and there is no way you can talk sense into young people’s heads — like those suicide bombers — let alone have control over them, as the Israelis claim that Arafat is not doing.

There is no way he can do enough to appease Israel. In fact it is his fault for committing himself to something that is beyond his control. When there is an end to occupation, and he is fully in control of all the Palestinian Territories and a peace treaty has been signed, then he should be held accountable. But under the present circumstances how could he? And why should he, when Israel has not complied with any of the agreements?

Will Israel be allowed to continue assassinating Palestinians for the security of Israel, and not to expect any retaliation when the security of Palestinians is at stake every minute? Why is the accountability to the peace process dealt with double standards as well?

As much as I abhor violence and condemn every act of violence — in fact I belong to a group which is working on strategies for non-violent resistance — I keep hoping and praying that we will all find a way out of this cycle of violence. But I do not see a way out unless the root cause of this violence is removed, by ending the occupation. As long as the occupation prevails, the situation will continue to be just as hopeless for both of us. Killings and more killings, violence and retaliation. The brutality will increase, retaliation and vengeance will be another reaction and so on and so forth. No American envoy no matter how well versed he is in military affairs or political affairs will be able to bring about peace and quiet to this region unless there is an end to the occupation.

According to Mr. Powell, “The occupation hurts the Palestinians but it also affects Israelis.” In the end result it is dehumanizing both peoples, and if Mr. Powell is sincere in his words that it is of “American national interest that Israel and the USA are bound forever together by common democratic values and traditions,” then the USA should see to it that Israel ceases to be an occupying force. How can it be democratic when it is an occupying force, and when its Arab citizens are second-class citizens? So the sooner the USA finds the means to put an end to the Israel occupation then its envoys will have a mission to complete. Otherwise both Mr. Burns and Mr. Zinni will be just as frustrated as previous envoys whose plans or reports have not been implemented and are added to the stacks of UN resolutions and agreements that were initiated with the Oslo accords after the Madrid Conference ten years ago.

I hope it will not take another ten years for a new initiative. Because we do not really need any new initiatives; we need implementation on the ground. Time is running out, and so many lives both Palestinians and Israelis are running out as well. Help us put an end to the occupation and with it all forms of violence. This is simple common sense and logic.

In this holy month — and in this region, the cradle of the three monotheistic faiths — dare we hope that the celebrations of Ramadan, Hannukah and Christmas will bring a new dawn to this Holy Land, where we can see justice at work, so that peace and security will prevail for the peoples of the whole region.