Key to Mideast cycle of violence is anger and grief over
the dead. That's what my newspaper said, December 12. Israelis,
retaliating against Palestinian provocations (that's the way it's always
put), accidentally kill some innocent Palestinian passersby (that's the
way it's always put), and before you know it suicide bombs are being
detonated, busses are being shot at, and cabinet ministers are being
ambushed in hotel hallways. And so goes the cycle of violence. Ever
bloodier. Never ending. If only Palestinians would stop, the cycle of
violence would end. Thatís the conservativeís view, recycled endlessly,
all black and white but for the occasional concession to the liberalís
view: if only Israelis would show some restraint, the killing would
stop. Nothing about ending Israeli occupation. Nothing about illegal
settlements. Nothing about Palestinians living in refugee camps. As if
none of this exists, let alone matters.
A UN peacekeeping force is needed, someone says. Yes, it
is. Only the Israelis wonít have it. And neither will Washington. And
what Washington wants, or doesn't want, Washington gets, or blocks. That
could make you wonder: Is it really Palestinians who are the key to
ending the violence?
International law is needed, someone says. Yes, it is.
Only the Israelis wonít follow it. And Washington says they don't have
to. And thatís what matters. If Washington doesnít want it, it doesnít
happen. Compliance with UN resolutions on the right of return, on
dismantling settlements, on withdrawing to pre-1967 borders -- could
that be the key?
Not according to Tel Aviv or Washington or the media.
Compliance with international law is peremptorily dismissed. It would
change Israelís racial character, reduce its territory, narrow its
power, and that can never be allowed to happen. The best Palestinians
can hope for is not to have Israeli tanks rumbling through their towns,
razing houses, destroying olive groves. Peace. Not justice.
Weíre told Israel must be armed to the teeth to defend
itself from Arab hordes who would drive Israeli Jews into the sea, from
the suicide bombers who blow themselves up, taking Jewish civilians with
them. Washington acts as Israelís armourer, furnishing Tel Aviv with
tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and, a fixture in the skies over the West
Bank and Gaza these days, Black Hawk helicopters.
Just the other day, two of them fired missiles at a car
waiting at a red light on a crowded Hebron street. Their target?
Mohammed Sidr, a suspected Islamic Jihad activist. The mission?
Assassination. The outcome? A 13 year-old and a three year-old were
killed, the 13 year-old walking along the sidewalk, the three year-old
sitting in his fatherís car, waiting at the same stoplight. Would you
fire a missile into a crowded intersection? Israeli pilots will.
The deaths of the 13 year-old and the three year-old
were accidental, says the Israeli government. We didnít mean it. The
media, following a pro-Israeli line, agrees. The pilots were aiming at a
suspected terrorist, not at the Palestinians who were killed. But
civilians were killed nonetheless, by pilots recklessly firing into a
crowded street. Is it not disingenuous in the extreme to say the deaths
were "accidental"? Whatís really meant is that the Israelis knew
civilians were going to be killed; they just didnít know which ones. It
was crap shoot.
And what is meant when we say "civilians" were killed,
as if Mohammed Sidr, the man the helicopter pilots were trying to kill,
isnít a civilian? Whoís a civilian and who isnít?
The answer to that question, like so many others in the
West Bank and Gaza, is entirely up to the Israelis, by authority of
having soldiers, more guns, tanks, F-16s and attack helicopters.
A civilian, it seems, is anyone Israeli security forces
kill, whose name they donít know. A suspected terrorist is anyone they
kill, whose name they do know. Both die at the hands of the IDF. One
dies in a crap shoot, because he got in the way. The other dies because
heís on a list.
The strategy is called minimizing false negatives. In
the extreme, it means the best way to eliminate terrorists is to kill
everyone who could be, or someday might be, a terrorist. If you get the
wrong man, so what? Better to kill innocents, than let a terrorist slip
through the net. If bystanders get caught in the fire, so much the
better. They just might be terrorists themselves. Or might soon become
one. The view is bone-chillingly expressed by one American who said he
wasnít troubled in the least by the bombing deaths of Afghan children.
Rukia aged two will become Rukia aged 22, a terrorist, he said. Best to
get rid of her now.
That Rukia, aged two, was taken out by a terrorist with
a bomb, who happened to be piloting a B-52, never occurred to him.
Terrorists are people who have bombs. Itís only those who have no air
force, no Black Hawk helicopters from which to drop them, who are called
terrorists. But all of them -- the young man who straps high explosives
to his midriff to set off on a crowded street, the young man who fires
missiles into a crowded intersection from a helicopter -- are they any
less terrorists, any less killers, for one being Arab, the other Jew?
The key to the Mideast cycle of violence isnít anger and
grief over the dead. The key is something Tel Aviv doesnít want to talk
about and Washington doesnít want to talk about and the media rarely
acknowledges. The key is something Palestinians have been forced to
endure for over 50 years -- injustice.
And when all the journalists stop turning a blind eye,
when Washington decides itís no longer tolerable to back Israeli
intolerance of the legitimate rights of Palestinians, then, and only
then, has the Mideast cycle of violence any chance of finally being
brought to an end.