Israelis Celebrate, Palestinians Mourn

Published on
by
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Israelis Celebrate, Palestinians Mourn

by
Helen Thomas

The Israelis are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of the nation of Israel.

The Palestinians have only to mourn the loss of their land and the oppression they have suffered as refugees in camps and caves since 1948, their life under military occupation and their humiliation at myriad Israeli checkpoints.

Defeats in wars that had U.S. military and financial support have left the Palestinians in despair. But all that is history now.

President Bush has led a prestigious parade of statesmen and former statesmen -- many of whom made Israel's takeover possible -- to the anniversary celebration in Israel.

Bush has supported Israel's building of a 400-mile wall on Palestinian land that the Israeli government contends is needed to protect Israel. Bush has been meek in his criticism of Israel's continued expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, slice by slice.

Bush was very upbeat at the ceremonial start of his visit to Israel, bursting with optimism for democratic change throughout the Middle East.

But reality set in when a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in a shopping center in a southern Israeli city, wounding 14 people, possibly more.

Bush is hoping he has a last chance to show something for his efforts in the Middle East as he prepares to ride into the sunset in less than a year.

Less optimistic was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said an Arab-Israeli peace deal "might be improbable, but it's not impossible."

Bush has found that one of his favorite rhetorical ploys -- promoting "democracy" in the Middle East -- can come back and bite him, as was the case two years ago when the Palestinian group Hamas won the election in Gaza. Democracy had gone too far in the eyes of the Bush administration. The president rejected the Hamas victory and helped Israel mount a blockade of Gaza, cutting off food and fuel supplies.

Palestinians hoping for a change in U.S. policy shouldn't be looking to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama -- whose middle name is Hussein -- is scared of being dubbed a Moslem or even seen as sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians.

Obama, who once indicated that he would talk to foreign leaders on all sides if he became president, has seen the light.

He sacked Robert Malley, a liberal Middle East expert, from his role as an adviser because Malley told The London Times that he had been in contact with Hamas as part of his regular non-campaign job. That surely tells you something about Obama.

The likely GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is also an ardent supporter of Israel. So the Israelis have no worries about the November election.

No one in recent years has done more for Israel than Bush. I expect streets in Tel Aviv will be named after him. A monument may even be built in his honor.

According to Benny Morris, author of "The First Arab-Israeli War," David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, once confessed that he, too, would wage perpetual war with Israel if he were a Palestinian.

Morris quoted Ben-Gurion as saying:

"Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and (have) stolen their country."

No one can deny the victimhood of the Jews through the ages. But that does not entitle them to take it out on the Palestinians.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

Copyright 2008 Hearst Newspapers.

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