With the recent horrific tragedies in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York, it seems that while our nation has understandably stopped, the media circuit continues to issue misinformation about the Middle East. Information that is leading to the inflamed passions of fellow Americans and a glorification of an Israeli system that violates human rights to allegedly maintain its security.
Clearly, the pictures of a small minority of Palestinians celebrating the tragic deaths of the victims was abhorrent. It is a very small minority of Palestinians. 4,000 of an estimated more than three million Palestinians. Have some of them lost them their humanity due to unconditional US support for Israel? Have they lost their humanity because as one Palestinian recently stated, “every bullet, missile, and weapon used says Made in the USA?” It’s possible. Still, Palestinian officials and legislators have come forward to extended condolences to the American people on behalf of the Palestinian people. As Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi noted, we are suffering and we sympathize with others who are suffering. Palestinian Jerusalemites held a candle light vigil for the victims. There was no footage of this in our media. Talk to Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans. They are outraged and devastated. And the backlash against them and other Arab-Americans has already begun, even though the perpetrators are not yet known.
With regard to Israel, perhaps the only ones to gain from this tragedy, they are now seizing Palestinian cities and sending in bulldozers. Many Palestinians have been shot, and Israeli Knesset members have urged Ariel Sharon to go forward. “The world will understand,” said Zvi Hendel, one of the advocates. And as one Israeli military official noted today, “we are operating in the Jenin area and nobody’s complaining.” When asked by the New York Times as to what the latest tragedy means for relations between the United States and Israel, Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gloated that, “It’s very good..” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.”
Israel has a history of torturing Palestinians, and most recently Palestinian youth é according to Israel’s own B’tselem. Despite a ban on torture by Israel’s High Court of Justice in 1999, the torture has never stopped. Enough loopholes were given to Israeli interrogators. According to one article, nearly 80% of Palestinians who have been tortured were never prosecuted for crimes. Israel says it is necessary as they have produced confessions. Who isn’t going to confess to a crime when scalding hot water is poured over their bodies, they are deprived of sleep, are told that their mothers and sisters are going to be raped, or are placed in contorted positions for days? Israel’s own penal code Section 277 even prohibits the use of torture to extract confessions. They signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1991, which prohibits the same. What will our country become should it adopt such measures?
The David Ben-Gurion Airport was highlighted and lauded in one media report. The strict security measures, unfortunately, are only administered to those of Arab descent or supporters of known Palestinian human rights. Arabs are often separated and subjected to strip searches. Jews are not. One American grandmother, who accommodated a delegation of American Christians and Palestinians, was separated and told to take off her removable cast. There is nothing admirable about a system that bases a security system based on one’s ethnicity or support for a particular group’s rights.
At a time when Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans have already encountered violence, threats, vandalism, and intimidation, it is important that we not glorify systems that have been deemed barbaric from as far away as Denmark. Recently, Danes protested against the Israeli ambassador, Carmi Gillon for supportive comments of torture. Our nation is in mourning. Changes are required. But if we change our system to one that tortures people and officially discriminates against certain groups, then we will have lost our nation forever.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.