This piece is in direct response to Anath Hartmann’s article in last Friday’s issue of The Hoya, which we believe makes racist and historically inaccurate claims. In “No Excuses for Terrorists” (Oct. 15, 2004, A3), Ms. Hartmann advocates the repression of freedom of speech, denies the existence of the Palestinian people and, through her analogy of the Palestinians to Osama bin Laden, characterizes all Palestinians as bloodthirsty terrorists.

The speaker in question, Ms. Diana Buttu, has among her many credentials the unique position of legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO has observer status at the United Nations, maintains a permanent mission to the United States in Washington, D.C., and is officially recognized by Israel, as well as the rest of the world, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Thus, it is impossible to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without engaging with the PLO or individuals who have worked with it.

In her article, Ms. Hartmann took issue with Ms. Buttu’s use of the term “apartheid” to describe the situation in Israel and Palestine. According to Ms. Hartmann, the term is “not at all applicable to the situation.”

However, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we dare say a more knowledgeable authority on apartheid South Africa than Anath Hartmann, made the following statement in describing his visit to the Holy Land: “It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.”

Ms. Hartmann’s claim that there “is no indigenous Arab people known as the Palestinians” is not only factually incorrect, it is racist.

The Palestinians are a distinct group of people with a common history, culture and experience. The Palestinians’ collective and individual right to self-determination has been reaffirmed in the United Nations every year since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Long gone are the days when even the right wing of the Israeli government denied the existence of the Palestinian people. In addition, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, acknowledged the existence of the Palestinians and their connection to the land: “We have taken their country.”

Perhaps the most offensive and dehumanizing aspect of Ms. Hartmann’s article was the claim that the Palestinians inflict suffering upon themselves for “propaganda purposes.”

The real cause of Palestinian suffering is the Israeli occupation and all that it entails, including regular Israeli army incursions into Palestinian areas, Israel’s home demolition policies, restrictions on movement of Palestinians that prevents them from getting to their places of work and little or no access to water fit for human consumption.

Ms. Hartmann’s description of Ms. Buttu as “looking like she would have enjoyed seeing me dead” is entirely absurd. Perhaps this perception on the part of Ms. Hartmann can be best attributed to extreme paranoia coming from someone who believes that the goal of all Palestinians is “first and foremost to see you [Israelis] dead.”

The idea that an entire people have as their goal the killing of another people is racist and eerily reminiscent of 19th-century descriptions of Native Americans as blood-thirsty savages – a description used by whites to justify the isolation and extermination of the native population.

If we are serious about there being no justification for terrorism, then we should not restrict the use of the term to non-state actors.

Let terrorism also include the use of violence by a state to achieve political objectives.

Let it be used to describe the occupation and displacement by the Israeli government and military of the Palestinian people as part of a grand strategy of maximizing the territory under its control while minimizing the number of Palestinians who live there.

If one seeks real peace and understanding, the starting point would have to be the recognition of the humanity of the people with whom one is at odds. Nothing brings us further from that goal than the racist hate speech of Ms. Hartmann.

Bayann Hamid is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and is a board member of Students for Justice in Palestine. Ziad Abu-Rish is a first-year student in the Masters in Arab Studies program.

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