Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Unthinkable Violence

In what has grotesquely been named, "Operation Rainbow," Israeli military forces, earlier this week, began the biggest incursion into the Gaza Strip since the Palestinian uprising began nearly four years ago.

Yesterday, as reported by Reuters:

"Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in one of the most destructive incidents in the Gaza Strip in recent years.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), 2,197 people have already been made homeless and 191 homes razed throughout Gaza in the past few days.

The worst affected area is Rafah, on the border between Egypt and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where 1,064 people lost their homes in 48 hours.

More than 30 Palestinians have died and many others who are critically injured are unable to reach hospitals due to curfews and restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli forces."

Today the situation got even worse. As reported in the Washington Post:

"An Israeli tank and helicopter fired on rock-throwing Palestinian demonstrators Wednesday, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens of others, according to witnesses. Israeli media put the number of dead at 22...

As they marched along the main street here, a group of them got within about 800 feet of the cordon, with some in the front throwing rocks towards an Israeli tank, witnesses said.

At that point, the tank opened fire on an electrical pylon above the crowd, hitting some of the Palestinians with shrapnel. Then the tank and an Israeli assault helicopter fired at the crowd itself, witnesses said."

As reported on CNN:

"Video of the scene from The Associated Press showed dozens of wounded, some of them children. The crowd was protesting Israel's Tuesday attack in the Tel Sultan neighborhood in Rafah."

These horrific, and criminal, acts of violence could not come at a worse time for the U.S. as out image around the World has been tarnished almost beyond repair (at least in the near term) by the conduct of the war in Iraq, and the prisoner torture scandal in particular. Now the World will see images of American made weapons, like Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks, firing on rock throwing protesters and refugee camps leaving mutilated and dismembered children among the dead. In what will further harm our image, there will be no strong condemnation of these events from either the Bush administration or the Kerry campaign, especially in an election year, let alone any type of actual pressure placed on the government of Ariel Sharon to disengage from this bloody and destructive incursion.

If we want to fight a comprehensive war on terrorism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict must be resolved. It is not the magic bullet, but it is one crucial step without which there can be no victory. Acknowledging Arafat's role in the violence does not help the process if there is also no recognition of the brutality and bad faith of Ariel Sharon.

I cringe when I learn about Palestinian suicide bombers brutally murdering Israeli civilians, men, women and children. I am equally sickened by the targeting of civilians and wanton destruction of homes and lives when conducted by the Israeli military. Neither is acceptable or constructive.

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