As the "war against terrorism" rages in Afghanistan, the troubled Middle East has become more unstable, especially with increased tensions and conflicts between Israel and Palestine. And while the peace movement here in the U.S. and throughout the world takes a stand against all violence, including war, it is important now more than ever to take a critical look at Israel's role in the cycle of violence that has plagued the region.
According to Amnesty International, Israeli security forces have killed more than 570 Palestinians, including 150 children, while other human rights groups report higher numbers. The Palestinian people have been subjected to checkpoints, curfews, destruction of housing, as well as the blocking of humanitarian aid -- collective punishment against a civilian population.
The Israeli military has also been guilty of torture, unfair trials, and assassinations of Palestinian leaders. While both sides of this conflict, which has been going on for over 50 years, have been guilty of violating human rights, it is the overwhelming oppression of those in the occupied territories brought about by Israel that should be further questioned.
Many groups in the U.S. and Israel, as well as the rest of the world, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, Bat Shalom, and Women in Black, are calling for an end to the Israeli-dominated violence in this troubled region. These incidents go on every day, yet are rarely reported in the U.S. press.
The mainstream, corporate-owned, U.S. media are often cunning yet deliberate in their bias toward Israel. Subtle tricks that allow for the appearance of unbiased reporting -- photos of Palestinians firing guns or headlines of the Israeli death toll -- deliberately try to skew the reader's opinion towards one direction: supporting Israel. But where are the pictures of the Israeli tanks and helicopters firing on Palestinian residences? Why are the even higher casualty rates of the Palestinians left out of the headlines?
It is not incidental that the majority of the U.S. media failed to report that in June of this year 114 countries, all signatories of the Geneva Convention, condemned Israel for "indiscriminate and disproportionate violence" against Palestinian civilians. Nor did they report on Ariel Sharon being brought up on charges of war crimes. Why do the mainstream media continually fail to report on these and other important aspects of global politics? News cameras are quick to roll when there is a devastating suicide bombing but do not seem to be around as tanks lay waste to residential areas. Why?
Perhaps the media do not want to show American-made weapons killing civilians. Perhaps it is because some of the same corporations that own the media have economic ties to weapons manufacturers in the military-industrial complex. Israel has been the largest recipient of American aid, upward of $90 billion. This past October the Senate approved $2.04 billion in "special military aid" for Israel. These economic ties between the U.S. and Israel allow for this filtering of news information.
The economic ties with Israel not only affect the news that we in the U.S. receive, they affect relations with others throughout the world. The cooperation of the U.S. government in the repression of Palestinian people affects the view and support of the new international coalition against terrorism, especially those within the Arab and Muslim world. Changing the U.S. policy with regard to aid to Israel is not only the right political move but would help secure the peace that the Bush administration supposedly seeks.
Furthermore Bush should take a stand against Israel's violence as well as the violence from Palestinians and follow through with his suggestion that Palestine become an autonomous state. The president should take notice as to how the cycle of violence between Israel and Palestine is never-ending and should not be mirrored in future U.S. policies in the Middle East or in the war against terrorism.
Julie Rogers is director of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.