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COLUMN

Do Not Stand Back from Peace

Guest Column Bilal Zuberi

Presley H. Cannady’s guest column in The Tech [“Standing Back From Palestine,” April 19] is a slap across the face for the entire MIT community -- Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise -- that wants to see peace in the Middle East. His blatant hatred of Palestinians (which include Christians and Jews as well as Muslims) is self-evident and perhaps not worth commenting much on. The readers are sure to feel as much disgust for the hate-garbage he spewed out as I did when I read it.

However, let’s focus on why there is so much killing and aggression in the Middle East. Israelis and Palestinians are not grabbing each other’s throats only because of a crazy General Arafat or an even crazier General Sharon. The conflict is a result of the 50-year old strategy adopted by Israel which has denied the creation of a formidable state for the Palestinians where they can attain the same freedoms that Israeli citizens prosper in. Yasser Arafat and the PLO are themselves to blame partially for not doing enough to control the few extremists within the Palestinian territories, but the major blame lies squarely on the biggest player in this conflict: Israel.

There have been many promises made to the desperate Palestinians but none have borne fruit. Palestinians have lost entire generations waiting on the promises to be delivered. While those promises brought security and safety to Israel, Palestinians continued to be treated as worthless, low-life creatures by Israel, both within Israel and in the occupied territories. Before the second Intifada began, there were hardly any suicide bombings or any other form of terrorism inside the state of Israel, so why did Israel not move to allow for an independent state of Palestine to be created? That question rings in every Palestinian’s heart who feels frustrated by the lack of substantive movement towards creation of an independent state.

Reverend Desmond Tutu’s words rang true last week when he compared Israel’s systematic prejudice against non-Jews to the apartheid era in South Africa. However, there is a slight difference; its goal is not to rule over, but to remove or expel the indigenous Palestinian population. Israel does not seem, at least as yet, very serious about the creation of the Palestine state -- and not because a strong Palestinian state would threaten the security of Israeli citizens, but because peace in the Middle East would no longer allow Israel to deserve the billions of dollars annually that flow into it from the United States.

Let’s be clear about this: Israel is not the democratic outpost of the United States in that part of the world. It is the biggest threat to the security of United States citizens and the biggest drain on United States’ GNP. We have heard and read how extremists all around the world are targeting the United States due to its support of Israeli aggression. The United States is facing a war on terrorism for many reasons, but Israeli aggression against Palestinians is providing the fuel that extremists use to find support in masses around the world. If it wasn’t for the brutal, harsh and almost genocidal policies adopted by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), perhaps peace would return to the Middle East, and possibly to much of the world as well.

Peace in the Middle East can only be built on the principle that Palestinian life is equal to Israeli life and Palestinian rights to statehood, sovereignty, freedom, and liberty are as sacred as those of Israeli citizens. Oppression, illegal occupation of lands, and the undermining of basic dignity and respect for human life, as we witnessed in Sabra, Sahtila and Jenin refugee camps has got to stop. The massacre that the Israeli forces are committing, with each passing day, is making the situation horribly difficult for those who are struggling to bring peace in the Middle East, including the peace-loving U.S. citizens. The Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territories is a sad realization, even if written in the way Mr. Presley Cannady thought appropriate: “When the U.S. turns away from the war, Israel kicks Palestinian ass all across the West Bank.”

Even now, when Israel is trying to portray its current invasion of Palestinian territories as a measure to protect its own security, we must not forget that there are many facts that point to a systematic undermining of Palestinian sovereignty in the Palestinian lands. The Israeli occupation has never ceased and even now, the so-called Palestinian Authority areas are pock-marked with new Israeli settlements. A map of Palestine shows how illegal settlements have been erected by extremist Jewish populations and the state of Israel not only supports them but encourages them to occupy more lands. In fact, in 1998, General Sharon urged the Israeli settlers to “move on, and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours -- everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Former President Jimmy Carter, in 2000, wrote that “[a]n underlying reason that years of U.S. diplomacy have failed and violence in the Middle East persists is that some Israeli leaders continue to create facts by building settlements in occupied territory.”

It is time now for the U.S. citizens, Israeli citizens and the citizens of this world to stand up and force Israel to stop the aggression. There are Christians, Jews, and Muslims being killed mercilessly in Palestine and while we wait and watch, the death toll is making it ever more difficult to instill peace in the minds of young Israeli and Palestinian children. The moment of truth has now come and Israel must act in favor of peace, or else it is in danger of finding itself as alone as South Africa after the fall of communism. The rest of the world has already given this message to Israel and now the U.S. President and this nation are doing the same. This is not the time to stand back from peace.

Bilal Zuberi is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry.