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
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"
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.