Learning a Lesson

By Samia Khoury
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The front page of our local paper this morning carried a photo of a soldier holding a civilian by his shoulder and lifting his shirt. This very familiar scene occurs at the roadblocks and in Palestinian towns every day. In fact, a few months ago, in the midst of a rainy day, an elderly man was stripped completely naked in Nablus. But the photo in our papers this morning turned out to be in Iraq and not in the Palestinian Territories. The soldier was an American soldier, and the civilian was an Iraqi. How similar.

As the Allied Forces are waging their war for reasons that we have lost track of, the silent war waged by the Israeli military occupation against the civilian population in the Palestinian Territories goes unnoticed, as if it has become a normal daily fact of life. Even after thirty-five years, no illegal acquisition of land and occupation can be accepted as normal, and no brutality can be justified.

But to add insult to injury, shortly after the capture of the city of Baghdad, Zalman Shoval (the former Israeli ambassdor to the United States) and other top Israeli officials told the Palestinians to learn a lesson from the Iraqi war.

Amazing how Israel is a master at twisting the situations completely. If the war waged against Iraq was for any of the reasons that were being justified by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, then all of them would apply to Israel. And it is Israel that would need to learn the lesson, especially that in the whole region Israel was the only country supporting this war. In fact, there was hardly any support for that war anywhere else, and the antiwar demonstrations all over the world expressed a very clear message to Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair. So what was the real reason behind this war?

Was it really the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq has? But if so, Israel has a stockpile of them.

Was it for Iraq’s non-compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions? How can this be justified when Israel has not complied with a long list of UN resolutions, the most important of which are 194, 242, 338, 465, and 681.

Or was it for liberating Iraq from a dictator who has been brutalizing the Iraqi people? So has not Israel been ruling the Palestinians under a brutal occupation against their will for more than thirty-five years? That is over and above the 1948 dispossession of the Palestinian’s land and identity, and the various massacres along the line.

Who should really be learning the lesson? I would think it is those who own weapons of mass destruction, those who do not comply by UN resolutions, and those who rule and brutalize people against their will. So it is Israel that needs to learn the lesson, Mr. Shoval. The Palestinians have already learnt our lesson.

We learnt it after Oslo, and after we made so many concessions for the sake of peace. The lesson we learnt is that no peace or security can be achieved under occupation, and it is time Israel learns that. It cannot continue to use its security as a justification to deprive others of their rights and security. Our fate as Palestinians and Israelis is so connected and interdependent. We both yearn for peace and security. But unless there is justice, and we are both liberated from the Israeli Military Occupation, none of us will be able to enjoy the peace and security that this beautiful Holy Land can offer us.

By now the whole world knows the real reason for this war and who really will benefit from it. It is the hegemony of power, economics, money, and oil. The bids for the reconstruction of Iraq were prepared before the war was even waged, and talks about resuming the pipeline to the old Haifa refinery in Israel were also ongoing.

The only government office in Baghdad that was protected from the mass looting by the occupying Allied Forces was the Ministry of Petroleum, which was well-guarded by the American Forces. In fact, the papers even carried a photo of American soldiers looting a fridge and loading it on one of their vehicles. Maybe they need a cold drink in this heat!!

No war is a game, or a picnic. How sad and how brutal it was to watch the news of this war. For whatever reason that war was waged, the victims were mostly innocent civilians, basically children and women who nobody on earth had the right to deprive them of their lives. And unlike the Allied Forces who made a choice to wage this war, the Iraqi civilians had no choice. Time will only tell who is going to learn a lesson from this war, and how it is going to affect the whole region.


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