By Norah Vincent - May 2, 2002, Source: Los Angeles Times. Norah Vincent is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank set up after Sept. 11 to study terrorism.
Palestinian representatives and their pan-Arab sympathizers often complain that the United States favors Israel in the Middle East conflict and that we approach every peace negotiation with that unalterable bias in mind.
President Bush, like all his predecessors, has found it politically expedient to deny this, mostly because our dependence on Saudi oil and investments necessitates tact and sometimes even outright pandering.
But the truth is that we do favor the Israelis, morally that is, and there is a simple reason for this. They don't murder children. That is not to say, however, that they are blameless. Any reasonable, well-informed person, including many American Jews, will readily concede that the Israelis aren't saints. As one woman told me recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "is a bull."
They, like us, have been responsible for civilian deaths during war and tactical incursions. But there is a big difference between attempting to avoid but sometimes inflicting civilian casualties (in this case, by risking booby traps and going house to house on foot as the Israeli army has been doing) and targeting civilians purposely, as Al Qaeda did Sept. 11 and as Palestinian gunmen did Saturday when they rushed into the Adora settlement and killed four noncombatants, including a 5-year-old girl, at home on the Sabbath. The moral difference is all in the intent.
What must it take to pull the trigger on a 5-year-old cowering on a bed?
Of course, the response to all of this is that Israel too has killed defenseless civilians, including children. Remember the 12-year-old Palestinian boy and his father caught in an alcove during a shootout? They were pictured ubiquitously in the news a year and a half ago as symbols of Israeli brutality. But a recent report has called into question whether the boy was killed by Israelis or Palestinians. Regardless, he was killed in cross-fire, not purposely. That matters.
What's more, though that boy was a noncombatant, as his father's furiously waving a white flag indicated, many are not. Yet Palestinian representatives in the West either ignore this or omit mention of it.
Here is a typical screed from Columbia University professor Edward Said:
"The monstrous transformation of an entire people by a formidable and feared propaganda machine into little more than militants and terrorists has allowed not just Israel's military but its fleet of writers and defenders to efface a terrible history of injustice, suffering and abuse in order to destroy the civil existence of the Palestinian people with impunity.... Are Palestinian civilian men, women and children no more than rats or cockroaches that can be attacked and killed in the thousands without so much as a word of compassion or in their defense?"
Now consider this statement, from a Middle East Media Research Institute report quoting Abu Jendal of Islamic Jihad, who was interviewed several times by the Al Jazeera satellite television network during recent fighting in the Jenin refugee camp.
"Believe me, there are children stationed in the houses with explosive belts at their sides," Jendal said. "Today, one of the children came to me with his school bag. I asked him what he wanted, and he replied, 'Instead of books, I want an explosive device, in order to attack.' "
And again, the institute's Web site reported that the Islamic Jihad commander in Jenin, Mahmoud Tawalbeh (later found dead), had prevented Palestinian civilians from leaving the camp.
The Islamic Jihad announcement went on to say that Tawalbeh "had thwarted all attempts by the occupation to evacuate the camp residents to make it easier for the Israelis to destroy [the camp] on the heads of the fighters."
In light of this shocking news, we have to ask ourselves if we can treat with moral equivalence a group of people who not only execute enemy children in their homes but also send their own children and other civilians into battle and still have the audacity to pretend outrage when these individuals are killed.
Is it any mystery we disfavor them?