There are always risks involved in fighting on behalf of the oppressed. Howard Zinn, in his monumental work, A People’s History of the United States wrote that “the voice of the oppressed is not always just, but if you do not listen, you will never know what is justice.” I recall an argument with a relative when I defended African Americans’ right to fight for justice. The Miami “McDuffie Riots” were still in progress (May 1980), and a number of innocent whites had been brutally murdered. My relative taunted me for my convictions: “So are you proud of your niggers now? Look at those three whites who had their eyes and tongues gouged out!” I answered that when people are oppressed and go into a rage, these tragedies will happen; however, the onus of responsibility was with those who had the power to end the oppression.
Unfortunately, in times of conflict, there is a brutal reality-check or realpolitik if you will, that comes into play. Both the perpetrator and the victimized become brutalized as the logic of a never-ending conflict drags onwards. We have seen this in the recent past in Northern Ireland and see it almost daily in Colombia, where US-backed right-wing paramilitaries use chainsaws to massacre peasants.
It should come as no surprise that two Israeli teenage settlers were stoned to death yesterday; their bodies were discovered today. Nor should anyone be surprised at the Palestinians’ strategy of selective assassination of settlers. Israel set a precedent with her assassinations’ policies é remember, this is a UN member and a sovereign nation-state that is supposed to abide by a number of international legal conventions é and continuously compounds the situation by using military, economic, psychological, and political means to drive Palestinians into the sea of the desert. One of the teen settler victims was an American Jew whose parents made the brilliant decision to abandon a country that gave them unprecedented freedom, to leave a country that has never persecuted Jews (yes, there was Leo Frank in the deep, segregationist South in 1911) as a matter of national policy, and walk straight into another people’s homeland that has been under an illegal military occupation since 1967! But idiocy aside, these terrible events é from Mohammad Al-Durrah to Shalhevet Pass to Iman Hejjo and now the teens é have to be placed in a context of conflict where Israel holds the lion’s share of blame.
Mortars have become a weapon of choice for Palestinians for one simple fact: they do not have the military wherewithal to defend themselves against an Israeli military that has deployed against their towns, cities, and villages, some of the most advanced conventional weaponry in the world. Those of you who have seen “Saving Private Ryan” surely remember the final battle scene where American 101st Airborne Division paratroopers must defend a bridge against German infantry supported by Tiger tanks. Recall that scene ala “Jurassic Park” (same director) in which you hear the grinding metal of German tanks before you even see them enter the town. Imagine Palestinians’ terror when the hear and feel the approach of 58-ton Merkava and 62-ton M1 Abrams tanks, the ground vibrating as these steel behemoths descend upon virtually defenseless refugee camps. Imagine the fear struck into Palestinians when missiles suddenly slam into a car driven by a “suspected” Hamas or Islamic Jihad member. One such attack tore apart two innocent female bystanders é the US media made little of this atrocity.
The brutal reality behind the Palestinian mortar and sniper attacks é those not carried out by Israel’s collaborators and agent provocateurs é is that Israel will pay a price for her unrelenting illegal, military occupation and settlements. While these are brutal, cold facts at least the shooting of settlers on bypass roads involves certain selectivity in choosing a target whereas Israeli tank fire into residential homes are wantonly brutal and reckless. That’s how Iman Hejjo lost her life and five of her family members lie in hospital beds. The Israelis are most fortunate their Navy seized of an arms cache; nothing would lift the spirits more of Palestinians and send a clear message to US taxpayers about wasteful spending than to see a multi-million dollar Apache attack helicopter (intended to fight tanks, not Toyotas) twirling in flames in a downward spiral to terra firma.
Mr. Michael Lopez-Calderon taught High School Social Studies in Miami, Florida for seven years until March 2, 2001, when he was asked to leave the Jewish Day school where he had taught for the past five years. Michael was asked to leave for having posted pro-Palestinian comments on Palestine Media Watch’s subscriber-only e-mail. He remains an activist in the Miami area.