LAST MAN STANDING Present Agression Reminiscent of Past Atrocities Too often, when we think of Palestinians, we think of them as bloodthirsty terrorists, while we tend to see Israelis as blameless victims just trying to live in peace. This is the view the American media has pushed us to believe. But our perceptions of this bloody conflict are beginning to change. In a whirlwind week of diplomatic posturing, a crescendo of criticism against Israel’s brutal occupation reached previously unknown levels. Both Colin Powell and President George W. Bush condemned Israeli aggression. Kofi Annan referred to Israel’s “illegal occupation” and urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end the “the unnecessary use of lethal force.” Perhaps even more unexpected, longtime Zionist-advocate Geraldo Rivera, after seeing the suffering of the Palestinian people, declared that he has become a “Palestinian-ist.”

Why are people changing their minds? Why are even staunch supporters of Israel beginning to doubt the occupation? It is because Israeli oppression has become so blatant that even Sharon is having a hard time justifying it. The Israeli army has been exposed to the world for what it really is – a vicious force of repression which seeks to subjugate a weaker people too. Indeed, the Israeli occupation is possibly the most morally bankrupt policy since World War II. Sharon’s comments have shown that he has little regard for civilian life. He recently said that Israel should inflict more casualties on the Palestinian people for them to learn their lesson. Self-defense? Sounds a lot like state-sponsored terrorism to me. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised about Sharon’s feelings toward Palestinians; in 1956 when talking with Israeli General Ouze Merham, he said this: “I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child that will be born in this area . I wanted to encourage my soldiers by raping Arabic girls as the Palestinian women is a slave for Jews, and we do whatever we want to her.” This is the same man who is today the leader of Israel.

Unfortunately, many Israeli people still seem to share Sharon’s hate. In a recent poll by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, 46 percent of Jewish citizens said they would support the forced “transfer” of Palestinians out of Gaza and the West Bank. “Transfer” is simply another word for ethnic cleansing. Perhaps this reminds you of the Holocaust, because it should. In its incursions into refugee camps, the Israeli army rounds up all males ages 16 to 48, and marches them in a long line to a “collection center” where they are subsequently handcuffed and blindfolded. Recently, Israel has forced refugees to have an identification number written on their forearms and foreheads. The shocking symbolism was not lost on Israeli Knesset member and Holocaust survivor Tommy Lapid who said: “This is totally unbearable for me. This was something that was done to us in Auschwitz.” Jews all over the world have been repulsed by the fact Israel is using methods previously employed by the Nazis.

Perhaps just as shocking is the Israeli army’s disregard for hospitals and medical personnel. Officials at a Ramallah hospital said that Israeli defense forces had cut the hospital’s water and electricity and that it ran out of oxygen. In addition, the Israeli army has said that ambulances must submit to 10-minute inspections. Well, those who are on the brink of death do not have 10 minutes to spare.

Nevertheless, I’m sure many of you would argue that the Palestinians initiated this whole bloodbath with suicide bombs. This is a misguided assumption. Granted, suicide bombing is morally reprehensible but at the same time does not occur in a vacuum – it is in response to the poverty and oppression perpetuated by Israel. Palestinians have little to hope for. Just to understand the plight of the Palestinian people, we need only to look at how Israel allots 85 percent of its water supply for Jews while the remaining 15 percent is divided among all Palestinians in the territories. In addition, 62 percent of Palestinians live on less than $2 a day. Surely, life in the occupied territories is “nasty, brutish and short.” Think about it: If there was no oppression, Palestinians would not feel the need to resort to suicide bombing. If they had a chance to live with rights, dignity and freedom, there would be no need to take one’s own life because there would be a future to live for. Yet Palestinians have lost their mothers, their fathers, their brothers and their sisters. They’ve lost their children, they’ve lost their homes. They’ve lost their futures, and now they’ve lost their hope.

It shouldn’t matter if you are Jewish, Arab or Christian. Injustice is injustice. You can be the most patriotic of Israelis and still be able to see the utter inhumanity of the occupation. In the last two months alone, hundreds of the most respected Israeli reservists have refused to serve in the occupied territories. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the people who experienced so much oppression at the hands of the Nazis, have now become the oppressors themselves.

The Holocaust was one of the most shocking occurrences of the 20th century. After the Holocaust, Jews and people of other faiths took a vow. “Never again,” they said. Granted, Israel has not eliminated five million Palestinians, but it is doing its utmost to eliminate the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Thankfully, though, upstanding Jews and Israelis all over the world are all standing up and saying that enough is enough, and that “Never again” applies to the Palestinians, too. They are as shocked as I am about what Israel has done. I’m sure, though, it’s harder for them because Israel has always been their dream. Now, though, it has become a nightmare.

Last Man Standing appears every other Tuesday in The Hoya. The author can be reached at lastmanstandingthehoya.com.

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