When the Palestinian Intifada broke out in September 2000, world
sympathy was overwhelmingly in favor of the Palestinian uprising.
It seemed that everyone was shedding tears for the "poor, oppressed
Palestinians struggling for liberation from the lengthy, harsh Israeli
military occupation." With all the misery, poverty, disease,
disasters, and starvation in the world, the most tears were shed
for the "plight of the Palestinian refugees," who were
maintained in UNRWA refugee camps for 55 years. Collections of food,
money, and clothing were made for the "Palestinian children,
who were the neglected, innocent victims of the long, turbulent
conflict." This implied that that the Israeli children, who
were killed and maimed by Palestinian terror attacks, must have
been guilty victims. Their crime was to ride a Jewish bus on the
way to a Jewish school, in the free, democratic, sovereign, successful
Jewish State of Israel. On the other hand, Palestinian boys were
cheered and encouraged as they threw stones at the big, bad Israeli
soldiers with their long rifles and heavy riot helmets. The Palestinian
suicide bombers were glorified as martyrs, willing to sacrifice
their lives for the desperate struggle to obtain a little homeland
for their people. Their leader, Yasser Arafat, was honored by the
international community, as a statesman and recipient of the Nobel
Peace Prize. He was welcomed by Presidents and Prime Ministers around
the world who gave him hundreds of millions of dollars to help him
achieve his goal of "an independent Palestinian State with
Jerusalem as its capital."
In contrast, the State of Israel was verbally attacked and vilified
by journalists, academics, and diplomats. Renowned academics at
prestigious universities labeled Israel, "a racist, apartheid
state engaged in a program of genocide against the Palestinian people."
University presidents were urged to divest college funds from Israeli
institutions. Israeli produce was boycotted in Europe and left to
rot in their crates. Israeli policies towards the Palestinians were
compared to Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Third Reich.
When challenged to support these statements, Palestinian sympathizers
cited unsubstantiated Palestinian allegations about the Israeli
security practices at checkpoints, border crossings, and interrogations.
That's hardly a fitting comparison to transports, concentration
camps, gas chambers, and crematoria.
When the NY Times published a photo of a bloody teenage boy crouching
below an Israeli soldier, the world expressed outrage at the brutality
of the Israeli soldiers and wept for the unfortunate Palestinian
victim. This time, the tears only lasted for a few days until the
paper printed a correction that the Palestinian boy was actually
an American yeshiva student who was beaten by Palestinian youths,
and the soldier ran to assist him. Of course, a highly respected
paper like the NY Times can be forgiven for an occasional, little
error. On September 30, 2000, news media around the world showed
the image of 12-year old Muhammed Al-Durrah being shot and dying
in his father's arms. These images quickly became the symbol of
"Israeli brutality" and were used to justify the intifada.
Of course, nobody bothered to ask what he was doing with his father
in a combat zone, or whether he was really killed by an Israeli
bullet. A clue to those answers came from an interview that Sakhr
Habash, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, gave to a Palestinian
newspaper in December, 2002. He said, "We have weapons that
the Zionist enemy does not have. The boy- Fares Odeh who attacked
an Israeli tank with stones and was killed-is our strongest weapon.
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC
Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.