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Friday October 27, 2000

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They shoot children, don't they?

Headline Photo

By Nick Zeckets

Battle continues to rage in the war-torn occupied territories, and the death toll is increasing daily. Despite the efforts of human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Israel's own Betselem, people continue to die, many of them Palestinian children. American interests need rethinking, as the White House must choose humanity over military positioning.

Karin Laub of The Associated Press eloquently related the story of 14 year-old Mohammed Hamed from Ramallah in the West Bank. Believing anyone who would not confront Israeli soldiers to be cowardly, Hamouda donned a clean set of clothes, styled his hair and went to a traffic circle to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. Rocks.

Hiding behind a makeshift barrier, young Mohammed was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. The young boy added his name to a list of at least 26 other Palestinian children killed by Israeli soldiers. Israeli officials scoff at the third-party statistic, claiming that Palestine is exploiting the children's deaths. There is little to exploit. Children being shot for lobbing rocks is abominable.

Politicians and diplomats are evidently missing the point amidst the strife in the Middle East. Right now, focus hinges upon rapid deployment stations and the ability of the U.S. to maintain control in the region. Rather, it should be everyone's goal to stop the killing, particularly the deaths of young children.

Article after article speaks of another Mohammed or Ahmad being shot or imprisoned, but with repetition comes a glaze. American eyes are glazed over if they even get past the Middle East themed headlines. However, when 17 Americans died in the USS Cole explosion off the coast of Yemen, the country felt a collective sense of remorse. Why not for the Palestinian young? Why not for Mohammed Hamed?

Fourteen years old, frail, just learning about girls, just beginning to understand there's a whole world out there to discover; that was the face of a defenseless, green victim. Yet in his finite wisdom, Mohammed Hamed had character - the kind which drove him to write his name and address on a piece of paper in his front coat pocket because, as he told a friend, "If I die, I want people to know who I am."

Blame, cannot, however, be solely laid upon Israeli soldiers. Protesters are considered armed and dangerous, and there are Palestinians equipped with guns. Outdated as the guns may be, the bullets still have the capability of killing. Age and armament cannot always be safely gauged through crossfire. To the credit of Israel, no photos showing unarmed Palestinians being killed point-blank have surfaced to date.

War is indeed hell for everyone involved, especially the children. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been quoted as supporting violence in the name of the Palestinian state. Rarely does he dissuade children from attending.

Hamed's mother, Mona, did try to keep her son around the house, but he got out one day without his mother seeing. He came home dead. If nothing is done, more kids will find themselves in pine boxes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense and Capitol Hill are preoccupied with maintaining influence and control in the Middle East. Israel has long been an ally to America, as it receives more U.S. foreign aid than any other country in the world, $3 billion per year to be exact. In addition to monetary support, the U.S. gives Israel military technology. Such gifts may be aiding Madeline Albright's ability to barter with Israel, but immediate problems must be addressed first before national boundaries can ever be settled upon.

Responsibility is tripartisan, with the U.S., Israel and Palestine accountable for youth deaths. Palestine must discourage its young from venturing out to protest sights and from inciting violence. Israel has to limit the force with which it opens up upon crudely-armed Palestinians. Finally, America absolutely must embrace the concept of middle eastern humanity. Kids are kids wherever one goes.

Do not be complacent in this time of battle UA. Feel what it is that these Palestinian and Israeli families are losing. Pray, contemplate, feel, discuss; do whatever you must to empathize with those in the West Bank. We may not shed tears, but perhaps the ripple effect can begin here. Understand the humanity of the world and its people and let the world see our example. Help to bring peace to the Middle East.