Free Palestine Yes, Ben Laden No

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The quest for a free and independent Palestinian state is a just and noble cause. This cause must not be defiled by the evil actions of international terrorists. Palestinians eject the attempts by Osama Ben Laden to link his case with Palestine nor do they support his oath that America will not witness peace until their is peace in Palestine.

It is true that for years America has bowed to domestic pressure and has obstructed the implementation of this internationally legitimate cause of a people wishing to be relived of an unjust Israeli occupation of their land. But the path of killing innocent people in New York and Washington is not the path of justice for Palestine.

Palestinian officials, intellectuals and many average Palestinians expressed their condemnation to the terrorist attack against America in numerous ways. The US consul general in Jerusalem publicly thanked Palestinians referring, among other things to a thick dossier of faxes from Palestinian individuals, NGOs and public figures expressing support for Americans.

This is not to say that Palestinians are not frustrated or unhappy with their present predicament. In just th last year alone more than three million Palestinians have been living under inhuman conditions that included shelling of residential areas, uprooting trees, demolishing houses and banning travel between cities and towns.

The suffering is not restricted to this past year. For 53 years the world has stood silently as the suffering of the refugees continued, their lands and homes made available to incoming Jewish immigrants and their right to return as enshrined in UN resolutions 191 was left to collect dust. Palestinians suffering increased as all of mandatory Palestine was occupied and a brutal 34 year Israeli military occupation continued despite the Security council’s resolution 242 that called that occupation in 1967 “inadmissible.”

One need not wonder why Palestine has become a calling cry for any leader of a country or a movement, irrespective of their opportunism or their sincerity, whether they be considered moderate or radical, whether they run stable countries or rouge states. Palestine has become the opium of Arab and Moslem nations. Dictators refer use our cause to silence opposition, they chant for Palestine in order to rally their ignorant people behind them and divert attention from their own inadequacies.

Palestinians will not allow their just cause to be hijacked. Since 1987 when the Palestinian intifada began, the overriding theme of this people revolution was the opposition to the Israeli occupation and not opposition to the existence of Israel. In 1988 the PLO adopted this call by accepting a historic concession of a two-state solution, a Palestinian state on roughly 23% of historic Palestine alongside the state of Israel. Since then this has been and continues the Palestinian position, which fulfills President Bush’s condition for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Gulf War, a hesitant peace process and continued Israeli settlement activities during a transitional period failed to fulfill Palestinian aspirations of an independent state within the June 1967 areas. Since the Gulf War the US has insisted that Iraq should not be rewarded for its aggression. When Palestinians rejected Israel’s demands to keep parts of the lands it occupied in 1967, the Palestinians were declared uncompromising towards Israel’s ‘generous offer’. Average Palestinians ask the simple question: Why should Israel be rewarded for its aggression while Iraq’s children suffer 10 years after the invasion of Kuwait has been reversed.

This anti-American feeling became more obvious once the new Bush administration started to vocally defend Israeli actions while claiming lack of interest in international affairs. Israel’s right wing leader was received twice at the White House while the Palestinian leader Arafat was unabashedly shunned by a country that is supposed to be an ‘honest broker.’

The frustrations of the Arab peoples with America reached unprecedented heights when the US delegation so brazenly and publicly sided with Israel before and during the UN’s anti-racism conference in Durban south Africa. The fact that the US was unwilling to accept what the world had seen as a clear discriminatory policy by Israel towards Palestinians, widened the rift with America and increased Islamic and third world support for Palestinians.

Throughout the past year and as the frustration of Arabs and Muslim peoples was rising, governments in the region were seen as being completely helpless in defending Palestinians or in pressing the US to take a more balance approach..

While the biased US policy to Israel caused tremendous anger amongst Arabs and Moslems, it failed to blind Palestinians and their leadership from the determination to reach their goal.

The years of suffering also brought with them experience. They taught Palestinians a simple lesson not to count on anyone except the justice of their cause. It is no wonder that Ben Laden’s demagogy failed to find deep roots with Palestinians.

Sure a few people were mesmerized by the person they say has caused Americans to feel what Palestinians feel very day under Israel’s occupation. But the struggle of Palestinians for a free and independent homeland hasn’t been without sacrifices. Palestinians will not allow this struggle to be defamed by an extremist terrorist who sees the world only in terms of religious blocks.

Palestinian Muslims and Christians are united in their fight for freedom and democracy. The Palestinian struggle for independence is a national not a religious one. This struggle will be victorious because it is just and right and not because of the actions or words of an international terrorist.

Daoud Kuttab is a journalist who covered both intifadas and Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.

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