THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Jan.11-17, 2008
For most of the last eight years, the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis has received little serious attention in the U.S. mainstream press. Only moments of horrific violence have captured our attention.
The most notable coverage came with sporadic reporting of the three year siege of the PLO in Ramallah, followed by the mysterious illness and death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004. Then came the 2006 Israeli assault on Hezbollah in Lebanon, widely viewed as a victory for Hezbollah. The Hamas electoral victory over the PLO in Gaza was reported with an immediate labeling of Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Since then, there has been very limited U.S. coverage of the sealing off of Gaza by the Israelis and the horrific effects this has had on the daily survival of Palestinian people, cut off from food, safe drinking water and medical supplies.
All that changed in the last days of 2008 as Israeli war planes, made in the U.S.A., began a massive bombardment of Gaza, claiming it was taking action to stop the Hamas terrorists from sending rockets into Israel.
There are simply no words adequate to convey the horrible death and destruction now being caused by Israel in the name of fighting terrorists.
But we, who supply most of the weapons in this war, have a responsibility to move beyond quick explanations and conventional thinking about this conflict.
In order to understand our responsibility and to begin moving towards establishing both peace and justice, we need to shift how we think and talk about what is happening in our world.
First, we need to stop using the word "terrorist." It no longer has any meaning. If "terrorism" is inflicting death and destruction among civilians to achieve political ends, the U.S. government is the largest "terrorist" organization. We have killed more civilians than any government.
All that the word "terrorist" does is cloud our thinking about the political relationships underlying any conflict. Words like liberation, freedom fighter, insurgent, guerrilla and partisan invoke relationships based on political issues. Thus, to talk about the Palestinian Liberation Organization raises the immediate question of liberation from whom? Hamas takes its name from the Arabic initials for Islamic Resistance Movement.
The term "terrorist" is used to blunt thinking about relationships of power and politics. It is intended to create a picture of others as irrational, fanatical personalities, acting without reason or cause. Such a characterization has only one solution for the ending of terror: Kill the terrorist.
Second, we cannot support the idea that it is justified to punish a people as a whole for the actions of some in their government. This kind of assault on a whole population has long been denounced by the world community and was labeled a war crime in 1949.
Forty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. warned that the use of guided missiles by misguided men would lead to the spiritual death of a people. That death has come as we talk of the killing of children.
By the first week of this assault on Gaza, women and children made up 24% of all fatalities, and 40% of the wounded being treated in hospitals short of electricity and basic supplies.
The claim that we are fighting terrorists evades the political questions at the core of this conflict. Today the Israeli government is attempting to establish itself through massive force. Such a strategy is not only doomed to fail, but it encourages a world where weapons mean more than words, violence more than justice, and power more than people.
We in the U.S. have a rare opportunity to say enough of war, if only we have the will to change.