It’s been said that oppression breeds extremism, and nowhere has this been seen more than the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The American-made Osama Bin Laden is now using the Palestinian cause to endear himself to the Arab and Muslim World, and some are embracing him. But are Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims responsible for this phenomenon or have they been pushed into supporting the unthinkable?
Throughout the past year, the world has been bombarded with images of Palestinian youth throwing stones at well-armed Israeli Defense Force soldiers. More than 385,000 olive trees have been uprooted, hundreds of Palestinian homes have been flattened, thousands of men made into paraplegics, and at least 10 illegal Israeli settlements have been built since July. In other words, David versus Goliath has played itself out over and over again. In turn, the civilized world has turned its back over and over again.
One shudders to think about the psycho social ramifications of Palestinian society when all is said and done. In many ways, we are witnessing it now. When some Palestinians demonstrate for Osama Bin Laden, it is safe to say that these are cries of desperation. Not celebrations. In normal times where Palestinians are enjoying lives without occupation and a significant improvement in their standard of living é neither of which resulted under the Oslo Accords é it is doubtful that any Palestinian would have heard of Osama Bin Laden. But with each day that another Palestinian is killed, farmland is razed, or Israeli soldiers move into Palestinian homes — with little or no criticism é the embers of extremism spread. And while we can sit comfortably and watch these scenes play out, nobody can really say what they will or won’t do when the shoe is on the other foot. Reality is usually more powerful than perception.
The cruel irony of recent Gazan demonstrations for Bin Laden and against war on Afghanis: the PA was congratulated by Israel for killing Palestinian protesters with live ammunition. Hardly amusing and every undemocratic killing, as conducted by Israelis when they use live ammunition on Palestinian demonstrators, only raises the thermometer of the Arab streets, which is already on fire against us. Not because Arabs and Muslims hate Americans. In fact, many come here to taste liberty. Rather, it is because we are perceived as supporting regimes that deprive liberty to them in their respective homelands.
In the last few weeks, pro-Israeli commentators have commented about the lack of democracy in the Arab World. Israel is touted as the haven of democracy in the Middle East, though Palestinian Christian friends tell stories more reminiscent of the days of Segregation in the American South. But, let’s consider one likely scenario should Arab democracies begin sprouting, as their populations would prefer.
Arab governments plead with the US to require Israel to implement UN resolutions and to implement international laws and human rights conventions. The US response is that everything must be negotiated at the table. The democratic Arab governments say that none of these issues are usually up for negotiation, but we”ll let the parties try to work things out. Several years pass. The occupation continues and Palestinians continue to live without any freedom or improvement in their lives. Israel does not implement any interim agreements. They say they shouldn’t have to because the Palestinians living under its Occupation are not doing everything they are being told.
The democratic Arab governments, which rely on the voice of their populace, wave the oil card to the US. “If you’re not going to put any pressure on the Israelis to implement laws and agreements, then you leave us no choice. We’re raising the price of the barrel.”
Americans begin to pay several dollars per gallon to go to work or to visit family and friends. [Keep in mind that Palestinians are not able to go to work nor even attend weddings/funerals inside Palestinian areas due to Israeli “security” measures]. The US economy begins to really suffer. People are saving their money just to fill up their gas tanks. It takes its toll in the end, and the US insists that Israel start implementing the laws and agreements.
Lucky for Israel, there are no Arab democracies to worry about. In the meantime, repressive regimes are supported.
Yes, we may get Osama Bin Laden, but who’s to say another Bin Laden wouldn’t spring up . . . one who also appeals to the psyches of the oppressed? Understanding why there is any support for the likes of Bin Laden will save us from having to deal with more like him in the future.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.