I have read a lot of comments in these forums categorizing the Palestinians, en masse, as savage, violent, incapable of decency, only interested in the “destruction of Israel,” unworthy of sympathy, and worthy of being shot. (Well, OK, these comments were mostly in the Pit, but still.)
The Palestinians and other Arabs I have met have all been friendly, hospitable, good-humored and generally liked Americans while being critical of US Government policies. It’s true that I met them all in America, so they would tend to be more pro-American, but this still proves that they are not all the same.
For a quarter-century, Israel attempted to keep the Palestinians as a subject people, without the right to vote or decide their destiny. At one point Israel relaxed the rules a little and allowed some West Bank towns to elect mayors, and those mayors later got blown up by car bombs planted by Jewish extremists. (To its credit, Israel later arrested and tried the perpetrators, but I bet their prison experience was not equal to that of a Palestinian.) This is not a characteristic of a democratic state.
Israel has always used the sick principle of “collective punishment” to retaliate for attacks. The homes of the families of suspects have been demolished, generations-old fruit orchards have been chopped down, ancestral homes and lands have been seized and given to settlers. This is not a characteristic of a humane, civilized state.
The autonomous territories given to the Palestinian Authority after Oslo are a cruel joke. The Palestinians received only a fraction of what they had before the Occupation, with the rest going to the settlers or designated as “nature preserves.” The remaining patchwork of towns and villages do not have access to the natural resources or economic infrastructure that a viable state needs. Jewish Israeli settlements are generally given all the land and resources they need, while Palestinians are forbidden to dig new wells. This is not a characteristic of an egalitarian state.
Every ugly, violent act committed by a Palestinian has its echo in an ugly, violent act committed by a Jewish extremist or Israeli soldier. The Palestinians have their suicide bombers and the Jewish extremists have their Temple of Abraham mass murderer (Baruch Goldstein, who was applauded by many settlers). The Jewish extremists have also done some things no Palestinian would be able to do, like assassinate a prime minister. Armed settlers can also invade Palestinian homes and terrorize the inhabitants virtually at will.
Israeli soldiers do the same, and worse. Has any Israeli soldier gone to prison for the unjustified killing of a Palestinian? Some soldiers were disciplined in the “beating scandal” of the 80’s intifada, but in this case there was a videotape and international outrage. The martyred and mourned Yitzhak Rabin himself may have given the green light for this, however inadvertent, with his emphasis on “force, might and beatings.”
And the death of a child in Oklahoma or the World Trade Center is neither more nor less tragic than the shooting death of a Palestinian boy last fall as his father tried to protect him. The Israeli armed forces don’t care much about collateral damage. For a while during the 80’s intifada, they acted as if they had never heard of tear gas or riot shields.
Current Israeli policy is not very smart. The military responds to every bombing by attacking Palestinian towns with rockets and gunships, whether the target was involved or not, and then seems shocked when, inevitably, there’s another suicide bombing. Kind of like, “Why do they hate us so much? Why are we still dying from bombs?”
Israel, alone among “democratic nations”, enshrines in law the practice of torture, using the euphemism “mild physical pressure”. This, also, is not a characteristic of a civilized, law-abiding state.
Arab citizens of Israel do not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis. They can vote, but they can’t join the Army. Any Jew in the world can immigrate to Israel and claim citizenship, but no Palestinian can return to his family’s pre-1948 home, or any home taken from him by Israelis. This, too, is not a characteristic of a democratic state, and Meir Kahane admitted as much. Let’s face it, democracy and ethnic/religious preferences don’t mix, and Kahane was one of the few Israelis to openly acknowledge that.
No wonder every Palestinian is pissed off.
And yet we still have this common impression, in the media and among many Dopers, that the Palestinians are the vile, violent ones. No one ever says that about Irish people, despite their long and brutal struggle against the British and the many excesses committed by the IRA.
The Palestinians who were dancing in the streets yesterday (at least the few who were captured on videotape) may not have realized that the US has often pressured Israel to back off, and that American servicemen have also been bombed and killed by Israelis. The Palestinians appearing on that tape may only be cognizant that the Israeli military equipment that makes their lives miserable is all stamped “Made In the USA.” Or, they may realize all too well that the USA will never stop sending that equipment and will never demand that Israel withdraw those settlements that are the source of most of the problems.
Palestinians who wave victory signs and hand out candy to celebrate American deaths are no more nor less vile than Americans who celebrate Arab deaths with high-fives and beer, and neither one of those groups deserves to be dragged out and shot.
Recently an Israeli Jew who liked to visit West Bank towns and patronize Palestinian shops was shot dead, and he was mourned by his Palestinian friends. I bet those Palestinians weren’t dancing like the ones on the videotape.
If you’re a comics/graphic novel aficionado like me, you may enjoy journalist-illustrator Joe Sacco’s “Palestine” books, which are a searing bit of first-hand reportage. In fact, I didn’t even know many of the things I wrote in this post until I read him.