As an American of Palestinian descent and Christian faith, I never cared much for the ultimate goal of Hamas: to establish a religious state in Palestine.
But I find myself angered and baffled at Israel's decision to assassinate Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
What is even more baffling is the U.S. response, especially since its close ally, Ariel Sharon, personally commanded this extrajudicial killing.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's Today that "it is very important that everyone step back now and try now to be calm in the region. There is always a possibility of a better day in the Middle East, and some of the things being talked about by the Israelis... might provide new opportunities."
So the good ideas will come from Israel, which just assassinated Yassin? I read that as implying that if Palestinians react, they will be held responsible for any fallout. Unbelievable.
One thing is certain about the killing of the blind and quadriplegic Yassin: A peace agreement that once seemed unlikely now seems unreachable in the near future. Sharon is not stupid; his government expects retaliation. And the Israeli Defense Force will use that retaliation as an excuse to kill more Palestinians. It is a script that has played itself out for the last 31/2 years.
Each round becomes more deadly, and each has far-reaching effects. There are now more than 700 Israeli checkpoints in the occupied territories. A barrier is being built that has imprisoned many Palestinian villages and towns. The economic siege continues, and a British report now compares the Palestinian malnourishment levels to those in Africa. Still, the Palestinians have not been deterred from demanding freedom and independence.
Extrajudicial killings circumvent more than the negotiating table, though they certainly do that. Israel sought to circumvent international law itself. It wishes to brandish the stick and hand out the carrots.
The reasons for the current uprising are many and understandable. Certainly, they should appeal to any American. Consider freedom from occupation for a start. Freedom from having their olive orchards uprooted, a source of income for many; from having their homes demolished; from Israeli military checkpoints on the road to and from all Palestinian cities, so that travelers are held up from two to six hours on comparatively short journeys. Freedom to bring up children as opposed to fighting as adults are, so that they won't be subject to the humiliation their parents know now; freedom to know the same kind of security Israelis want for themselves.
Three million Palestinians have tolerated - in the overwhelming majority of cases, peaceably - the denial of these freedoms for more than three decades. They ought to be commended for their restraint all this time. There are an occasional few young men who can no longer wait, however, with often tragic results. It's been said that there is no enemy greater than the one who has nothing to lose.
Some think Yassin's death will put a stop to the Palestinian intifadah. But the intifadah is bigger than Sheikh Yassin. It is bigger than Yasir Arafat. It is most certainly bigger than Ariel Sharon. It involves the human spirit and the desire to be free.
Rice was right to say there is always a possibility of a better day in the Middle East. When Israel ends the occupation and implements United Nations resolutions as other nations are expected to, a better tomorrow may be realized. But extrajudicial killings won't get us to that tomorrow. It's a shame the U.S. government, with its silence in the fact of its ally's unjust acts, doesn't understand that.
Sherri Muzher is a media analyst in Mason, Michigan
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