Saturday, September 18, 2004

New Voices needed to stand up to Palestine-Israel violence, 9-18-04

New voices needed to stand up to violence
Arab American Media Services/Permission granted to reprint
Sept. 18, 2004
By Ray Hanania

A friend asked me recently to explain why someone would commit a suicide bombing. I said I didn't know.

Suicide bombings happen every week, mostly by Iraqi insurgents fighting our troops and Palestinians fighting Israelis.

Clearly, though, suicide bombings are the work of extremists who exploit human suffering. Why else does a human being chose death over life?

I don't support suicide bombings, but I think it is worth trying to answer the question. Can we prevent them?

Certainly, the voices of extremism have succeeded in drowning out the voices of reason on both sides? Suicide bombers are willing accomplices in a tragedy where extremists have convinced them that their self-destruction will somehow achieve some good goal.

Is it because in the Palestine-Israel conflict, there is no hope left for life? Or because Palestinians and Israelis seemingly have given up on peace and see violence as their unavoidable destiny?

Could it be that people see friends and relatives dying around them every day and no one else seems to care?

Their suffering is exploited by fanatics who distort religious belief, distorting the peaceful fundamentals of Islam, for example, convincing suicide bombers their act is an expression of faith.

It's not.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that few people seem to care when a Palestinian dies, but the value of an Israeli life is given so much more concern by the media and the public.

In the first 15 days of September, two suicide bombings took place in Israel, killing 16 people and wounding 93. The violence got widespread coverage.

In contrast, during the same period, 48 Palestinians, mostly civilian, were killed by Israel, including many young children. More than 250 Palestinians were seriously wounded. These killings got very little coverage.

Does this disparity in coverage contribute to the problem? I think so. I think it sends out a message that a Palestinian life is not worth the same value as an Israeli life.

I oppose suicide bombings. Most Palestinians I know are against them, too. But how do you ask a man whose young daughter has been slaughtered in an Israeli attack to set aside his grief and speak out against suicide bombings?

Palestinians feel that they are under siege, their land is being taken away and they have little hope for a just and fair peace, something that Israel has yet to offer. Israel's "most generous offer of peace" was far from what many would consider a just and fair peace.

The people of Israel and Palestine have both given up on peace. Neither side seems concerned about the suffering of the other. Israelis remain silent about the murder of innocent Palestinian civilians. Palestinians remain silent in the wake of suicide bombings.

Still, I know that before we can talk about peace, justice and fairness, we both need to stop the violence.

It would be nice if more people on both sides stopped contributing to the conflict by only speaking out against the violence in a partisan manner when it is against their own people. We should show compassion for each other, too.

If we did that, maybe we wouldn't have more suicide bombings or the collateral killings of young children.

I couldn't answer the question why it happens. But I think that pretty much sums up how both sides can make all the violence stop.

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