It is discouraging to see Ms. Hartmann cling to the same tired and debunked arguments that I heard when I was a senior in college (“No Excuses for Terrorists,” The Hoya, Oct. 15, 2004, A3).

I understand why Ms. Hartmann, and so many Israelis, deny the existence of Palestinians – it is difficult to accept that the creation of the “Jewish state” came at the expense of an indigenous non-Jewish population that was dispossessed of their homeland, their property, their rights and their history.

Mythologies such as those advocated by Ms. Hartmann Рreminiscent of white South Africans who argued that South African blacks were immigrants from elsewhere Рhave been debunked for decades not only by UN documents, newspaper accounts and Palestinian sources, but also by Israeli historians such as Ilan Papp̩ and Benny Morris.

The truth is as incontrovertible as it is threatening to Ms. Hartmann: Israel, a place that was meant to be a refuge for Jews around the world, is the same entity that turned millions of Palestinians into refugees and denies those refugees the right to return to their homes because they are not Jewish.

It is the same state that has relentlessly pursued a policy of land expansion at the expense of the native non-Jewish population.

Understandably, for those who believe that Israel spontaneously created itself in innocence and has always sought peace, this is a hard pill to swallow.

There are more hard pills. Israel, a country that claims to be a democracy, is currently engaging in neo-apartheid practices. Three and a half million Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories live on 13 separate reservations (akin to the Bantustans of South Africa). These Palestinians are surrounded by more than 420,000 Israeli settlers living on more than 150 illegal colonies.

Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories can travel freely.

Palestinian Christians and Muslims under occupation cannot. They can drive only on designated roads, with distinctive license plates and only to and from designated Palestinian areas.

Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories can freely access Occupied East Jerusalem to pray at their holy sites.

Palestinian Christians and Muslims under occupation cannot.

Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories can vote in Israeli elections. Palestinian Christians and Muslims under occupation cannot.

Unsurprisingly, John Dugard, the South African UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories called Israel “an apartheid regime” that is “worse than the one that existed in South Africa.”

Despite Ms. Hartmann’s mischaracterizations, I wish to make clear that I do not support the killing of civilians – whether they are Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian suicide bombers or Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli army as a matter of state policy and with the funding of U.S. taxpayers. Though I repeatedly stated this during my lecture, Ms. Hartmann chose to ignore it.

I agree with Ms. Hartmann, there can never be an excuse for killing of civilians. Just as there can be no excuse for the killing of Israeli civilians, there can be no excuse for Israel’s killing of more than 2,800 Palestinian civilians, more than 600 of whom were children.

There can be no excuse for Israel’s demolition the homes of more than 19,000

Palestinians, Israel’s detention of 7,000 Palestinians (300 of whom are children), and Israel’s bombing of Palestinian civilian areas with U.S.-made weapons.

More than 40 children were killed recently in the Israeli raid on Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza. Why, if Ms. Hartmann is so opposed to killing civilians, did she not condemn these murders?

If Ms. Hartmann and those misguided Israelis who agree with her are genuinely concerned with saving lives, they will recognize that many Israelis and many more Palestinians have been killed by an Israeli policy that refuses to see Palestinians as having an equal right to freedom and independence as Israelis.

Only when Ms. Hartmann can see me as an equal and allow me to live in the same freedom, security and independence that she demands for Israel, will there ever be any hope of peace.

Diana Buttu is the legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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