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The Beast in the Middle East
Editorial by Andres Capablanca
When the news came in several weeks ago that two Israeli soldiers were lynched by a Palestinian mob, it appeared clear to the American public who was the apparent enemy in the heated clashes between the Israeli military forces and the Palestinian people.  The media’s explicit description of the soldiers’ brutal deaths made many feel that the Palestinians were simply barbaric and inhumane.  The stereotypical terrorist image that has been frequently attributed to Arabs in Hollywood movies has now been vividly depicted in the news.  Of course the mutilation of two Israeli soldiers was obviously wrong; however, many Americans are now convinced that Palestinian children with rocks are threatening Israeli military forces (as though rocks could be equated with guns).  The death toll continues to rise, with 136 Palestinians and six Israeli soldiers dead in recent fighting.  At stake is the possibility of an independent state; this is the Palestinian people’s cause.
    From this war, two powerful forces emerge who are at fault—the Israeli government and the United States of America.  There’s a good deal of talk about how the United States has become a peace mediator between the President of Israel Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, yet the United States government has shown unconditional “love” for Israel by supplying them with military aid.  Israel ranks number one in American military aid (second is Colombia).  Many nations have condemned Israel for its actions in the UN, but to this day the United States hasn’t played an active role in condemning the crimes that have been committed on innocent Palestinian civilians.  Civilian apartment buildings and people are fired upon with the excuse of “restoring order.”  Shouldn’t such actions be condemned?   Apparently not, according to the United States.  Is this an example of being an unbiased mediator?  Even the presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush have claimed that they are pro-Israel.  The United States has great potential for being a significant contributor to future peace in the Middle East, but this can only happen if it chooses to befriend both sides.
     Israeli President Ehud Barak has said that he feels sorry for the many Palestinians who have died in the crossfire, but he feels that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has portrayed his people as underdogs and they are deliberately launching attacks.  Rock throwers are no match for the well-equipped Israeli army; if they were, there wouldn’t be so many Palestinians killed.  As for people dying in the crossfire, what crossfire does Ehud Barak mean?  Does he mean the crossfire of rocks and bullets? True, rocks can hurt when they’re thrown at someone, but bullets kill people.  There’s no excuse for people to die from Israeli gunfire.  Can terrorism be stopped and order restored by shooting at civilians?  A good example of the victims who died from “crossfire” was Sami Abu Jezar, a young Palestinian boy, who died from a shot in the forehead by an Israeli soldier.  The case of Sami Abu Jezar isn’t an isolated incident—many children are dying from this “crossfire” —but it seems the public outcry that arose over the death of two Israeli soldiers hasn’t been shown in this case.  Although Sami Abu Jezar didn’t become a symbol against Israeli aggression, another tragic victim did.  A news agency cameraman captured the scene of twelve-year-old Mohammed al Durra huddling behind his terrified father while trying to escape Israeli gunfire.  In the last moments of footage, Mohammed al-Durra was shown screaming in fear and being shot to death.  His father was injured and recounted the incident in which he remembered the boy’s last words, “Don’t worry, Daddy.  The ambulance will come and rescue us.”  When the gunfire ended, Mohammed was dead in his father’s arms.  Mohammed al-Durra has become a symbol of Israeli aggression and a martyr for the Palestinians, and parents around the world who saw the footage were shocked and horrified.  The Israeli army at first refused to admit blame, but then later admitted they did make a mistake.
     Media coverage has tended to be more favorable to Israel.  The six Israeli deaths have become stories in the media, while Palestinian deaths have become statistics.  Israeli soldiers have been portrayed as people who simply want peace, while Palestinians are portrayed as people with mob mentality.  Also troubling is how the media are concerned about the Middle East crisis because it may affect the stock market and oil prices.  Sure, it’s inconvenient when gas prices go up, but let’s not forget the bigger picture.
    Human lives are a lot more important than what the world pays at the gas pump.
 Many world leaders such as the Pope have supported Palestinian’s right to be an independent nation.  Violence won’t be stopped with more guns or better tanks.  It certainly won’t be stopped by placing more Israeli occupation troops.  Peace can be achieved when there is justice.   There will never be peace and stability as long as the Palestinians aren’t given what is rightfully theirs—a nation of their own.

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