Edna Yaghi’s Column
I am not in particular a fan of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Sometimes I feel he bumbles and is incompetent. Sometimes I feel sorry for him. Sometimes I even admire his fortitude and his perseverance. I cringe when he speaks in English and I sometimes shudder when he speaks in Arabic. He is not necessarily a charismatic person and certainly does not look like a knight in shining armor.
But he is not a terrorist. In fact, he is much less a terrorist than Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is. Arafat does not have the blood of thousands and thousands of innocent civilians on his hands whereas, Sharon is the man behind the massacres that took place at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982 and he is also the same person who is waging a brutal and inhumane war against the Palestinian people today.
To me, the reason that New York state legislators have targeted his removal from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum because they say they are outraged by Palestinian “violence,” is a tragic irony. It seems that the NY legislators have taken leave of their senses or else have a distorted view of events taking place in Palestine. A child with a stone facing an armored Israeli tank is not a terrorist. People fighting for the freedom of their country on what is left of their own land are not terrorists either, they are freedom fighters.
Not so long ago, George Washington led his men for the same cause, to fight for the freedom of his country. No one called him a terrorist then. No one calls him a terrorist now. Those American men who died on American soil for liberty are venerated as heroes and every year on July 4, Americans celebrate the independence that their American forefathers fought so hard to win.
What the Palestinians want and deserve is to live in peace and freedom on their own soil. That they are called terrorists simply because they struggle for their liberty is not only twisting the facts, but also grossly distorting the truth.
There are no Palestinian tanks bulldozing Israeli homes. There are no Palestinian gunboats attacking Israeli civilian areas by sea. There are no Palestinian helicopters assassinating Israeli soldiers by remote control. There are no Palestinian tractors bulldozing Israeli farms and orchards. There are no Palestinian soldiers digging medieval moats around Israeli cities to cut them off from one another. There is no Palestinian siege on Israeli cities and there is no Palestinian army stopping food and medical supplies from entering Israeli areas. There are no Palestinian checkpoints that deny Israeli sick and wounded from passing through to get to hospitals. There are no Palestinian tanks to shoot down children who throw stones in the name of freedom. There are no Palestinian soldiers perched on top of houses shooting down Israeli soldiers who prepare their meals late at night. There are no Palestinian settlers squatting on Israeli soil.
But there are Israeli tanks bulldozing Palestinian homes. There are Israeli gunboats attacking Palestinian civilian areas by sea. There are Israeli helicopters assassinating Palestinian freedom fighters by remote control. There are Israeli tractors bulldozing Palestinian farms and orchards. There are Israeli soldiers digging medieval moats around Palestinian cities and villages in order to isolate each section from the other. The Israelis do not let food and medical supplies enter Palestinian territory and there are Israeli checkpoints on Palestinian soil where Israeli soldiers stand guard and deny Palestinian sick and wounded access to medical care. There are Israeli soldiers perched on top of Palestinian rooftops who shoot down civilians and attack Palestinian soldiers preparing late night meals. There are Israeli settlers squatting on Palestinian soil who hunt down Palestinian civilians and murder them in cold blood.
How then can the New York legislators say that Arafat has orchestrated a campaign of premeditated violence against Israeli citizens when in fact, it is Sharon who has orchestrated a campaign of premeditated violence against the Palestinian citizens? What is an affront to decent law-abiding citizens anywhere in the world is that Sharon is killing Palestinians right and left and getting away with it.
The real terrorists are Sharon and his sidekick, Shimon Peres. These are the ones responsible for the present conflict and these are the ones who should be tried as war criminals for their crimes against Palestinians and their crimes against humanity.
If George Washington and Abraham Lincoln could speak today, they would tell the world that all men are born equal and that all men are entitled to the same inalienable rights and that all men deserve to live free in their own country. They would be outraged not by Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens, but for the violence that Israelis use on a daily basis against unarmed Palestinian civilians and they certainly would not condone Sharon’s attempts to slaughter the Palestinians.