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America and Israel: on the same page

Illustration by Josh Hagler

By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Jan. 15, 2002

In the days following the release of the now-infamous Osama bin Laden footage, in which he took joy in the destruction of Sept. 11, Palestinian newspapers across the Middle East, Pakistan and elsewhere made little reference to it. This disturbed me; I hoped that newspapers in every Islamic country in the world would have quickly condemned the remarks of bin Laden and his associates. The fact that they did not should be troublesome to all Americans, Muslims included.

Like the rest of Islamic people, the vast majority of Palestinian Muslims are interested in nothing but peace. Unfortunately, those people are not the ones in positions of power at the moment. Those in control will settle for nothing short of the destruction of the state of Israel.

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that if one-tenth of 1 percent of Muslims take part in terrorist activities, that still leaves more than a million people. This is no small threat, as America learned four short months ago.

But don't take my word for it. Just ask Israelis what they've had to put up with for more than 500 years.

Since their nation was created along the West Bank in 1948, Israelis have endured assault after violent assault by Palestinians who feel that, in accordance with their religious beliefs, the land Israel occupies rightfully belongs to them.

As a result, the Palestine Liberation Organization and its president, Yasser Arafat, do little if anything to destroy terrorist organizations living within their community. And the little they do is to appease the Western world. As former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said over and over, Arafat has two messages: one for his own people and one for the rest of the world.

Arafat faces a double-edged sword. He is in control of a 50,000-person strong police force, but if he uses his power to shut down terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he will be overthrown. If he does not use his power to help take down these groups, he will be sharply criticized by the rest of the world, especially those who help fund his weapons arsenal. America included.

Essentially, his hands are tied. If he hadn't had decades to rectify the situation before now, I'd almost feel sorry for him.

But Arafat has neither the ability nor the desire to end Palestinian terrorism. He will arrest members of terrorist groups to make us happy but set them free the next day with nothing more than a slap on the wrist in an effort not to draw too much heat from his own people. This is no longer tolerable, nor should it ever have been.

Israel has attempted to negotiate peace with Arafat's people in the past more than once. It has been willing to sacrifice more of itself than any of us might be able to imagine, and yet, it has never been good enough for the PLO.

A couple years ago, another former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, was prepared to make a deal with Arafat that would have, at one point, trimmed Israel down to nine miles wide. Arafat flat out turned it down.

Granted, Israel is not 100 percent in the right, nor is the PLO completely in the wrong in this tired dispute. But Israel does not send suicide bombers to nations occupied by Palestinians to blow up buses and malls with innocent men, women and children inside. When Israel responds by force, it is in self-defense. Like it or not, Israel is a nation-state, and it has the right to defend its borders and its people.

America wouldn't put up with the likes of Mexico's, France's or England's demands for land reacquisition, and we sure as hell wouldn't be frightened into giving it up as a result of domestic terrorist activity. In this light, we shouldn't hold Israel to a double standard. Israelis have been victims of suicide bombings for decades. Americans would not stand for being violently pressured into giving up its land, and neither will they.

If someone instigates a fight and proceeds to start punching and kicking you, you can't just curl into a ball and cover your face; you have to fight back. You have a basic human right to defend yourself. America knows this and is currently practicing this most basic of philosophies in defense of its people.

America is finally beginning to discover the truth: We never had any business telling Israel that it did not have that same right.


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