“It is astounding that one can look at the savage victimization of the Palestinians and not recognize terrorism.”
President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been roundly condemned for comments made at the United Nations anti-racism forum. In describing the establishment of the Israeli nation, he said it was done “to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering.” He further said that doing so brought “to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”
It is unfortunate that the Iranian president cannot separate fact from inflammatory fiction. History proves that there is no ‘pretext’ of Jewish suffering. The nation of Israel as we know it today was established following one of the cruelest, most barbaric periods of genocide in recorded history. The murderous German regime, under the savage leadership of Adolph Hitler, defined genocide in the twentieth century, in a period known as the Holocaust. The people of the Jewish nation are right to ‘never forget’.
So that part of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech is justly condemned. However, the Jewish treatment of the Palestinian people can easily be considered a “most cruel and repressive racist regime.”
Cruelty, terror and genocide must be identified, addressed and stopped even when the former victim becomes the victimizer, as is the case with Israel. There can be no discrimination based on the history of the victimizer. The 97-pound weakling who is victimized by the schoolyard bully and then, in time, becomes a 200-pound muscleman has no justification for bullying a newly-enrolled 97-pounder. If he does, he must be stopped, his own history of victimization notwithstanding.
Most members of the United States Congress do not appear to understand this most basic of concepts. A few facts will help illustrate this:
- In October of 2005, it was reported ‘that the Israeli military blocked Palestinians from driving on the main artery through the West Bank.’ Israeli human rights groups called this a total ‘road apartheid.’ Congress’s response: Silence.
- The Israeli military is authorized to prevent Palestinians from using roads used by Israelis in the West Bank, which belongs to the Palestinians. Congress’s response: Silence.
- United Nations Resolutions concerning Israel:
• 592: Strongly deplores the killing of Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University by Israeli Troops.
• 605: Strongly deplores Israel’s policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians.
• 607: Calls on Israel not to deport Palestinians and strongly requests it to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention (which relates to the protection of civilians in time of war).
• 608: Deeply regrets that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians.
• 672: Condemns Israel for violence against Palestinians at the Haram as-Sahrif/Temple Mount.
• 673: Deplores Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the United Nations.
The list goes on.
In 2001, the United States experienced terrorism first hand on September 11. People the world over were horrified as they watched hijacked jetliners slam into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. President George Bush used the grief and fright experienced by the nation to manufacture a war on terror that unleashed unspeakable terror on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Prior to the Iraqi invasion, justified by the president and approved by a spineless Congress because of the myth of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, people the world over gathered in massive demonstrations demanding peace.
Yet while these horrors were being first planned and then perpetrated on the Iraqi people, the Palestinian people had long been suffering murderous oppression. This occurs in one form on a daily basis, and more blatantly in periodic attacks. During two intifadas (late 1980s – early 1990s, and in 2000), hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed and thousands more wounded by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
It is difficult for a person living in a relatively peaceful, relatively prosperous nation to understand the terror the Palestinian people experience on a daily basis. The arbitrary bulldozing of their homes; the constant checkpoints where innocent people must wait for hours to go to work in their own fields, or to attend school; being deprived of medical attention and supplies, causing untold suffering for men, women and children; being forced to live in abject poverty because another nation that has never hidden its hostility toward the Palestinian people controls their borders, ports and airspace. Israel has total control over the economy of the Palestinian people, in violation of international law.
In the election of January 2006 the Palestinians gave Hamas the majority of seats in parliament. Outside observers saw this as a relatively free election, not encumbered by vote count fraud as experienced in the U.S. in 2000 (Florida) and 2004 (Ohio). But the U.S. and Israel were not pleased with the outcome. To show its displeasure, the following May the U.S. Congress approved a near-total ban on aid to the Palestinians. Noam Chomsky commented on this situation: “You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we (the United States) says….”  An exchange between Hearst White House correspondent Helen Thomas and then White House spokesman Tony Snow is also enlightening. Ms. Thomas asked about the foreign aid ban.
‘Well,’ Mr. Snow replied, ‘the U.S. role is one of working with Israel and, when possible, with the Palestinians to try to generate a peace, the same it has always been, Helen’.
‘Then why is it bankrupting the Palestinians?’ she interrupted.
‘The Palestinians are not being bankrupted, Helen. What’s happening, as you know, is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. We do not give money to terrorist organizations. What has happened is that this government has tried in a number of ways to make humanitarian aid available to the Palestinian people. We draw a distinction between Hamas, which is…’
‘And they were democratically elected,’ she interjected.
‘They were democratically elected, and they’re still a terrorist organization,’ Mr. Snow persisted. 
The United States has consistently endorsed Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. William A. Cook chronicles the humiliating treatment the Palestinian people are subjected to on a daily basis by the IDF. One citation suffices:
No one can pass through the checkpoints from West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem without emotionally retching at the sight of humans being forced to file like livestock through alleys of chain link fence, corrugated tin roofing, dirt paths, garbage and debris in the smoldering heat just beneath the shadow of that barbarous wall as they stumble toward IDF soldiers in military fatigues and drawn weapons, forced to pull out their ‘identity’ cards to prove that they exist before they can enter the area where cabs wait to take them to the Old City to their jobs, losing precious shekels in the process since they cannot drive into the city. As they pass like cattle, the ‘real’ citizens of Jerusalem drive by in their air-conditioned cars unobstructed by the IDF. We’ve seen this control imposed before in Prague, Poland and Austria when those other people, the non-Germans, had to carry their identity on their sleeve and in their pocket. Americans fought to free these people. 
So one might ask, what is terrorism? Is it simply the violent oppression and murder of United States citizens and/or those other select people the U.S. government deems worthy of dignity? Perhaps in the hallowed halls of Congress, and the White House of George Bush, that is the case. Perhaps now, with President Barack Obama in charge, terrorism might be defined somewhat more broadly.
It is astounding that one can look at the savage victimization of the Palestinians and not recognize terrorism. It is ignored by Congress, the New York Times and, despite some ineffectual efforts, the United Nations.
The only person who may be able to shine a bright light on the horrors endured by the Palestinians is Mr. Obama. He has sent a special envoy, George Mitchell, to the area to attempt to broker peace, but Mr. Mitchell has refused to speak with Hamas, the democratically-elected government of the Palestinian people. This does not bode well for his prospects.
What eventually will happen to begin to ensure that the Palestinians are able to live with the basic, human dignity that all people should be able to take for granted is not clear. Mr. Obama brings some hope to the situation, which is far more than his predecessor ever did. Perhaps this hope will move into action. The savage oppression of any peoples must be stopped; Gaza must not be ignored.
1. Noam Chomsky, What We Say Goes (Penguin Books, 2007), 11.
2. John McCaslin, ‘Tony’s Turn’, The Washington Times, May 25, 2006.
3. William A. Cook, The Rape of Palestine (Expathos, 2008), 52-53.
Robert Fantina is author of Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 - 2006.