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Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar: Bush ignores Israeli terrorism


ELEANOR Roosevelt once said, "Justice cannot be for one side alone. It must be for both sides." President Bush's speech Monday made it predictably clear that in the context of the Holy Land, justice would not present its elusive countenance to the beleaguered men, women and children of Palestine today.

On a day when many Israeli groups went into raptures over the president's "superb" and "visionary" address, the Palestinians and those who support their plight felt further marginalized by an administration that seems to assign more value to an Israeli life than to that of a Palestinian.

"Terrorism" is to President Bush as "communism" was to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Since that fateful Sept. 11, "terrorism" has become a bloody term that arouses a painful reminder of the towers crumbling in New York. But why is the word "terrorism" only used for the Palestinians and not for the Israelis?

Before President Bush's address, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak continuously used the word "terror" to refer to the Palestinians.

The president followed suit a few minutes later by using the word "terror" 10 times in his address. Of those 10, how many times was he referring to the Israelis? Not once.

According to Amnesty International, in the first 408 days of the current Intifada, 570 Palestinians were killed, compared with 150 Israelis who died. Out of those figures, 150 Palestinian children were killed to Israel's 30. Amnesty reported that "Israeli forces have killed Palestinians unlawfully by shooting them during demonstrations and at checkpoints, although lives were not in danger. They have shelled residential areas and committed extrajudicial executions. All Palestinians in the Occupied Territories -- more than 3 million people -- have been collectively punished. Almost every Palestinian town and village has been cut off by Israeli army checkpoints or physical barriers. Curfews on Palestinian areas have trapped residents in their homes for days, weeks or even months. In the name of security, hundreds of Palestinian homes have been demolished."

Just going by Amnesty's casualty count, if President Bush used the word "terror" for Palestinians 10 times in his address, the number of associations between Israelis and "terror" should have numbered around 50.

But documented figures from the pre-eminent international human-rights organization aside, let us get back to the transcript. Although the Israeli government is responsible for five times as many murders as its Palestinian counterparts, the condolences only went to Israel. The president looked somber as he emotionally stated that he understood that Israelis have "lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms."

Let me state in the most categorical terms that I can that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is as much of a terrorist as Yasser Arafat, if not five times more.

That is saying quite a handful, given that I really cannot stand Yasser Arafat either. I believe that he has recently been a detriment to his people. If a suitable replacement for Arafat would rise up from the ashes to uphold the democratic ideal of the Palestinians, I would be his ardent supporter.

Unfortunately, President Bush has now created a scenario that is a nonstarter. He has called for the "provisional" state of Palestine, on the condition that the "terror" cease. Many were hoping that he was referring to both the Israelis and the Palestinians, but unfortunately, our held breath was knocked out of us yet again.

By setting so many parameters, he made it easy for this straw house of a Palestinian state to collapse. If Palestinians do not approve of the Bush plan, all they have to do is commit an act of "terror" to prevent any formation of Palestine on the president's terms.

Sharon has vowed not to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza until the "terror" ends. The Palestinian zealots are smiling at Sharon's covert invitation to let them kill two birds with one stone. With another attack, they can prove the Palestinian Authority's ineffectiveness for the Palestinians, while creating fear and havoc in Israeli life.

I somberly conclude that this mockery of a proposal may play right into the hands of the extreme zealots.

I concede that there were some good proclamations in President Bush's speech. And I know that there will be a slew of opinion pieces commending the president for his "visionary" and "courageous" address.

I also note that this is the first time an American president has ever called for swift creation of a Palestinian state, with the same constitutional guarantees and legislative powers as in any other democracy. Unfortunately, like the Israeli settlement policy, there is too much Swiss cheese in the president's proposal. With so many holes and so little substance, it seems that this process may fail even before it begins.

All we can do now is pray. I gravely fear that this proposal has too many flaws to succeed. Although President Bush strongly empowered Israelis with his address and weakly tried to rectify the wrongs committed against the Palestinians, the endgame will play into the hands of people like Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat and terrorists from both sides.

Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar is Midwest communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He also attends Washington University School of Law, in St. Louis.

Source: www.projo.com




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