Palestine: Freedom Is What They Want

You might recall how President George W. Bush was wont to wax eloquent on the virtues of democracy and how often he spoke of spreading democracy to the Middle East.

You might not recall that there was a free and fair election in the occupied territories last year. Palestinian voters overwhelmingly chose a Hamas government over a slate of candidates offered by Fatah, a secular Palestinian organization.

They didn’t make this choice out of religious beliefs or because they preferred "terrorists" to politicians. They made the choice because they were fed up with the corruption and brutality of the Fatah faction. They made the choice because Hamas had and still has a reputation for honesty and for a wide-ranging and compassionate health, education and welfare program.

Alas, President Bush discovered that he didn’t like democracy after all. In his mind, democracy is only good if the election produces the results he wants it to produce. He immediately cut off aid and contact to the Palestinians, boycotted them and began a campaign to get other countries to withhold aid. These actions only harmed innocent Palestinian people. Since Hamas officials, unlike Fatah, were not in the habit of squandering public money on personal luxuries, the only people deprived by Bush’s actions were ordinary people.

Now the president is pretending that the Fatah gunmen, whom he has been arming, were just sitting peacefully in the shade recently, trying their hand at knitting or crocheting, when all of the sudden those bad Hamas guys came up and started shooting. Regardless of Bush’s lies, the truth is that Hamas fought back in self-defense. Between Fatah’s gunmen and Israeli assassins, the Hamas guys must have felt like targets in a shooting gallery.

The Gaza Strip is a hellhole. It’s a small patch of land, 41 kilometers long and about 6 to 12 kilometers wide. Its 360 square kilometers are crammed with 1.4 million Palestinians, about 1 million of them refugees from Israel’s earlier wars. Unemployment is over 50 percent, and the poverty level is 60 percent. Nearly 18 percent of all children there suffer from malnutrition.

Israel controls its water supply and its air and land routes, and subjects its people to frequent closures, not to mention military attacks. It’s true that some members of Hamas have resorted to terrorist acts, but the ratio of Israelis killed by Palestinians is small in comparison with Palestinians killed by Israelis. In the year 2006, according to B’Tselem, a respected Israeli human-rights organization, 660 Palestinians, including 141 children, were killed by Israelis, while only 23 Israelis were killed.

Try to visualize, if you can, 141 children. That’s about the population of four average classrooms. Now visualize a heap of dead children. Those shot in the head are probably not recognizable, but you can see the bullet holes in the young, tender bodies of the others. If you can visualize this, then maybe you will get an inkling of the suffering inflicted on Palestinians by the Israelis.

The Palestinians don’t deserve this. Their only sin was to be born in their own country, a country that was coveted by European Zionists and taken from them with the help of British colonialism. The fact that most American politicians prefer the indignity of acting like a crowd of timid foot-kissers for the Israeli lobby adds our own guilt to that of the Israelis.

Americans should remember the cliché "what goes around, comes around." Nobody gets a free pass to sin against humanity. The rest of the world sees us as we are. Other countries see the hypocrisy, the lies, the deliberate negligence of the American press. They see the callous disregard for death and suffering. To use the vernacular, we ain’t making any friends in heaven or on Earth.

The tragedy is that nobody has to destroy Israel to provide justice to the Palestinians, but if they don’t get justice, then Israel will eventually destroy itself, just as one of its best intellects has predicted. Palestinians want what William Wallace and our own ancestors wanted – freedom.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.