Leave it to Ariel Sharon! If there is one thing to say about the Israeli Prime Minister, he knows how to attract a crowd, even if they are all there to just jeer him. George W. Bush, Jr., our Court-appointed president, invited Sharon to the White House, on Wednesday, April 14th, to discuss a possible, limited Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip. Since Sharon took office, in Feb., 2001, over 2000 Palestinians have been killed, 327 by extra-judicial assassinations. Nevertheless, Bush describes Sharon as a “Man of Peace.”
However, few, if any, of the 100 or so folks, who showed up outside the White House, in Washington, DC, on this wet, chilly evening, had a good word to say about Sharon. Most maintain that he has innocent blood on his hands – the blood of slaughtered civilians from Qibya, Beirut, Sabra, Shatila, Nablus and Jenin. The unjustified bulldozing death of peace and justice advocate Rachel Corrie also happened on his watch. Instead of being a guest in the White House, many felt Sharon belonged in the dock, at the World Court, standing trial for his putative crimes next to Slobodan Milosevic.
Jamilah Shami of the DC Palestine Solidarity, a coalition of 12 groups, which sponsored the rally, spoke with me. She said, “Sharon really isn’t welcomed in this town. He’s a war criminal. We are upset with our president for meeting with him…This is a very sad day. It is very upsetting…They are not getting rid of all the settlements, and basically, they talking about a Palestinian state that will not be connected to each other.”
A long time activist for the Palestinian cause, John Steinbach, of Manassa, VA, labeled Sharon, “as a proven war criminal.” He added, “Sharon and Bush have made a very bloody deal…The U.S. for the first time is not recognizing the Right of the Return for the Palestinian refugees. Three million are still living in refugee camps, unresolved since 1948. And, Israel doesn’t have to return the land that it took in 1967, in a war. The basic cornerstones of International law are thrown down the toilet.”
The protesters assembled on the north side of Lafayette Park, at 16th and H St., NW, to demonstrate their opposition towards Sharon and towards the Israeli state that he represents. Israel is notorious for its abysmal human rights record regarding the indigenous Palestinians. It includes: Israel running death squads; like the recent, extra judicial murder of Sheikh Yassin; torturing detainees; holding prisoners without trial; creating a monstrous Apartheid War; erecting arbitrary roadblocks; perpetrating land confiscation; demolishing homes; collective punishment; building illegal settlements; and engaging, via state terrorism tactics, in ethnic cleansing (See, for details, “In the Beginning, There Was Terror,” by Ronald Bleier, The LINK, 07/03; and “A Most Ungenerous Offer,” by Jeff Halper, The LINK, 09/02, ameu.org).
The Israeli occupation is expensive, too. From 1948 to the present date, the authoritative “Washington Report on Middle East Affairs” magazine estimates the U.S. has given Israel over $90.6 billion (wrmea.com). There is also speculation that Sharon, if his withdrawal scheme gets Bush’s green light, will want the U.S. to underwrite the billions of dollars in cost. Meanwhile, the Israelis plan to hold onto six larger settlements in the West Bank, which the Palestinians denounce as “a recipe for disaster.”
David Kirshbaum, a member of SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax Aid to Israel Now), said he was at the rally, “to protest Sharon and the government of Israel’s policies of oppressiveness towards the Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and in Israel itself, where they have Apartheid laws legalizing discriminations against the Palestinians.”
For background purposes, keep in mind that on Nov. 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242. It ordered Israel to return all of the land, including the Gaza Strip, that it had illegally confiscated from the Palestinians, as the results of its preemptive 1967 Six-Day War. The Israelis have refused to comply with this important Resolution, and over 60 other UN Resolutions, too. A recent European poll ranked a bellicose Israel as one of the greatest threats to stability and peace on the planet.
“America’s free and open society is in jeopardy because of the eternal war concept that Sharon is advancing to consolidate his objectives,” said Brent Reilly of Roanoke, VA. He continued, “I think that will eventually wreck America, as it has already wrecked Israel.”
Ironies abound. Sharon has visited the White House NINE times, yet the survivors and supporters of the USS Liberty can’t get a single audience with the president to state their case for a public hearing on that disgraceful cover-up (ussliberty.org), nor can the grieving parents of Rachel Corrie, Craig and Cindy Corrie, of Olympia, Washington, get to see Bush to demand that the Israelis responsible for killing their daughter, on March 16, 2003, be brought to bar of justice (rachelcorrie.org). And, although Bush pushes his supposed Christian beliefs in his political persona, Christians are a vanishing presence in the Holy Land, down to 2 percent of the population, because of the Israeli occupation (hcef.org).
Also at the protest was Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss. A leader of the “Jews United Against Zionists” group (www.nkusa.org), he condemned the Zionists for violating the “commandments of the Torah.” He said, “We came here today to clarify to the world that Sharon is not the representative of Judaism or the Jewish people. In fact, he in the antithesis of what a representative of a Jew should be…The concept of creating a state of Israel is wrong.” He blasted the Zionists for their harsh treatment of the Palestinians, saying, “It is a terrible wrong. It is against every concept of the Torah. It creates anti-Semitism…Judaism and Zionism are not one and the same. They are diametrically opposite. We should not be mistaken one for the other. And, we shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of what the Zionists do.”
The protesters at the rally may have had slightly different agendas, but they are united in asking: “Why does the U.S. continue to subsidize Israeli wrongdoing against the Palestinians?”