Occupation is the cause of terrorism

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Ray Hanania’s Column

As I try to enjoy this Fourth of July weekend, I can’t help but think about my relatives who live in Jerusalem and in Ramallah under Israel’s brutal military occupation.

For the past two years, Israeli troops have passed through their streets shooting at anyone the soldiers see as a “threat,” a word with a very broad meaning in Palestine.

My cousin sent me an e-mail several months ago. I could feel the fear and anger in his words. He wonders why Americans are helping Israel kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

They are not all terrorists.”What do we have to do with terrorists? We are not terrorists. My life means nothing in my own land,” he wrote. “Our lives are worthless here.”

If I print his name, he fears, the Israelis might storm his home and kill him. They can always explain it away by declaring him a wanted Hamas bomber responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocent Israelis. No one in this country would challenge that assertion.

In Palestine, Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives. You see that in the media reports from the occupied territories.

Israel intentionally prohibits journalists from covering their incursions into the occupied territories. They do what they want, and the media are forced to accept their explanations for the killings.

It is hard to get accurate information. We are forced to rely on the “spin” provided by Israel’s more prolific American defenders and apologists.

Since the intifada began in September 2000, more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians have been killed. That does not include 76 Palestinian leaders who were victims of Israel’s policy of “targeted assassination.” That is where the Israelis can murder someone and then issue their version of a legal process. They are judge, jury and executioner.

That number does not include the 13 citizens of Israel who happen to be either Muslim or Christian — yes, there are many Christian Palestinians who are dying in this occupation that President George W. Bush, and the Christian world, seem to ignore. These 13 Israeli “citizens” were residents of Nazareth who peacefully protested against the occupation, and were shot dead.

Oh, the Israelis were sorry about that. Just like they were sorry about the woman and her three children who were shot and killed by the Israeli soldiers the other day.

We never know their names, just that they were “innocent bystanders” who happened to be killed as the Israeli soldiers went on another of their so-called “hunts” for terrorists. The Israelis always say they are sorry for those killings.In contrast, we always know the names and background of Israeli victims. The media does a good job of giving us that. When an Israeli is killed, no apologies or expressions of sorrow from the Palestinians are acceptable.

Compare the number of Palestinians killed to the population of the United States. It is the equivalent of 208,333 Americans killed, more than three times the number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War, during which I served. Unlike many Americans who support Israel this Fourth of July, I don’t have dual citizenship.

I try to comfort my cousin. He and his brothers have 12 children who huddle in constant fear that they will someday be killed. I can’t get them food. I can’t get them any money. I wonder how they eat.

I also wonder what I might do if I had to live like that. Would I turn to terrorism or suicide bombings if people killed one of my children, took my land and forced me to live like an animal?

That’s a tough one.I hope people recognize that the real cause of terrorism is the occupation, an occupation that has been in place for more than 35 years.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN). His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)

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