Keeping the Lens Broad

by The Dartmouth | 5/29/02 5:00am

By Mohamad Bydon '01

To the Editor:

Michael Mello's attempt to disgust us into supporting Israel by describing the scenes of "puddles of blood ... human flesh and bones and brain matter" that would follow a fictional suicide bombing at 105 Dartmouth Hall is rather feeble. One has to remind Mr. Mello that the bloody scenes he so vividly describes could be used to talk about any number of Palestinian villages after the Israeli army has rolled through. We should not forget that Palestinians are dying at five times the rate of Israelis, with hundreds of civilian casualties.

Mr. Mello seems to be part of a reactionary group of analysts who insist on seeing terrorism through a narrow lens of good and evil. Any expansion of this lens is deemed "making excuses for terror." A few weeks ago, I sat next to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a man who fought terror for 30 years, in a lunch with 20 other students and faculty. He said the following in referring to Israel's occupation of south Lebanon (the quote surprised me so much that I wrote it down afterwards): "When we came into Lebanon, there was no Hizbullah and people wanted us to be there. By the time we left, everything had changed ... The creation of Hizbullah came as a direct result of our prolonged presence in Lebanon." I asked Mr. Barak if he would agree that Israel's "prolonged presence" (read: occupation) in the West Bank helped fuel the creation of Hamas and he said that he would agree.

Such a statement does not justify terrorism. Rather it brings us to a greater understanding of this phenomenon -- awful as it may be -- ultimately edging us closer to a real solution.

I would also add that in fighting a war on terror, nations must continue to respect the rule of law. Even if there were 10 Irish Republican Army subway bombings in London tomorrow, the world would react with horror if Britain retaliated by demolishing the homes of innocent Catholics in Belfast.

Israel should observe the behavior of the United States in Afghanistan. In Kandahar, polls indicate that nine of 10 Afghans want American troops to stay as their peacekeepers. Despite the considerable loss of innocent lives, the Afghan people have welcomed the U.S. presence on their soil. So what did the United States do right?

While American soldiers are treated like heroes in Kabul, Israeli soldiers are despised to the nth degree in Ramallah. While the U.S. has explained that it is only interested in uprooting al-Qaida, Israel has shown that it wants to divide and conquer them with settlements. While the United States is rebuilding Afghan homes and investing billions into their communities, Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes and depriving entire cities of basic necessities.

And we too can learn from Israel's experience. Namely, it is important for us not to overstay our welcome. A 34-year occupation of Afghanistan would likely turn the Afghan people against us. We should also stay away from shipping thousands of American civilian families to live in luxury "settlement" complexes near major Afghan population centers.

Finally, Mr. Mello's lame attempt to pin the label of "anti-Semite" onto Chris Hedges is reprehensible. One is allowed to challenge Israel and even the notion of Zionism without being thrown into the category of anti-Semite.