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Israeli Shootings In The Last Two Weeks Were Atrocities, Pure And Simple
Published on Thursday, October 12, 2000 in Newsday
Israeli Shootings In The Last Two Weeks Were Atrocities, Pure And Simple
by Sheryl McCarthy
TO HEAR candidate Hillary Clinton tell it, the worst outrage that's occurred in the last two weeks of violence in the Mideast was the desecration of Joseph's Tomb, a Jewish shrine on the West Bank, and the attacks on some Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.

According to candidate Rick Lazio, it's been Yasser Arafat's refusal to control the angry, rampaging Palestinians. If the violence doesn't stop, Lazio says, Congress should cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority.

According to the newspapers, Yasser Arafat is the main villain in this mess - for letting Palestinian children out of school so they could join the riots, and for refusing to use his voice or his security forces to stop the violence.

Assorted other delinquents include the United Nations, for condemning Israel's excessive use of force against the Palestinians, and the Clinton administration for not vetoing the UN resolution.

But what about Israel's gunning down of demonstrators and rioters who were armed only with rocks and rage-with bullets, missiles and hand grenades? Americans are appalled when a dictator in Belgrade sics the police on anti-government protesters and when the Chinese disperse student demonstrators with tanks. But when the Israeli government shoots down its citizens in the street, it gets a pass. The shootings in the last two weeks were atrocities, pure and simple.

Clearly there's no contest between the Palestinian protesters and the Israeli military and police. The death toll, nearly 100, and almost all Palestinians, proves that. The protesters, who include a lot of young people and who for the most part are unarmed, were provoked by an act of arrogance, by decades of being second-class citizens and by frustration over negotiations that aren't going to give them what they want.

Protests like these take place all over the world. So why do we cheer the protesters in Belgrade, but say nothing about the shooting of Palestinians in Israel? "In 33 years of occupation, the Israelis have not learned how to respond to Palestinian demonstrations except with the use of lethal force," says Marty Rosenbluth, an expert on Israel and the Palestinian Authority for Amnesty International, the human rights group. "I don't think people who throw stones deserve to be shot under any circumstances." According to Amnesty International observers in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli security forces have used large quantities of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, hand grenades and projectiles. In instances where Israeli Jews went on rampages against Palestinians, however, the security forces held their fire.

In one reported incident in Nazareth, when Jews were attacking Arabs in an Arab neighborhood, Israeli police separated the two groups and fired on the Arab crowd. Elsewhere, when the security forces were not called in against the demonstrators, Amnesty International reported, the crowds dispersed, and there were no riots.

Rosenbluth said the Israeli government has a longstanding policy of using live ammunition against Palestinian protesters, while using non-lethal controls such as water cannons and tear gas against Jewish protesters. His organization has made many appeals to the Israelis over the years to end that policy, he said.

In no other place would the United States tolerate such heavy-handed treatment of unarmed civilians. But U.S. politicians, shamelessly pandering for Jewish votes and undiscriminating in their support of Israel, fail to offer criticism even when it's due. Israel's need for security is used to explain away the worst kind of behavior.

Of course, Yasser Arafat should have spoken out against the violence long before now, although how much control he has over his enraged cilivians isn't clear. He wouldn't lose any dignity, however, by telling the Palestinains that their future depends on keeping the peace. Arafat has prolonged the Palestinians' troubles by rejecting the most generous peace offer he is likely to get from the Israeli government, and from the first Israeli government that's been serious about making concessions in return for peace. But if the Israelis want to live peacefully with the Palestinians, then shooting them in the streets isn't the way to accomplish it. The shame is that it didn't have to come to this, and that the United States, the great moralizer when other countries behave badly, has given Israel a pass.

Copyright Newsday, Inc.


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