The Bush administration said that Israeli house demolitions in a refugee camp in Gaza were self-defense against terrorism, Oct. 14.
The next day, President Bush condemned the bombing of a U.S. diplomatic convoy that killed three Americans in Gaza and blamed Yassir Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, for not acting to \fight terror in all its forms."" He added that ""the failure to ... dismantle the terrorist organizations constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people's dream of statehood.""
It is not known who carried out the attacks on the American convoy in Gaza on Wednesday, but the United States was quick to condemn the Palestinians. In fact, Palestinian resistance factions including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance Movement had all denied responsibility for the act and had condemned it. They reiterated that their source of contention was not with America or its civilians, but with the Israeli occupation of what is internationally recognized as land that is supposed to be under Palestinian jurisdiction: the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
It is not as if Israel has not been guilty of killing innocent civilians in the past, the most publicized case probably being the murder of a member of the International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie, who was bulldozed by Israeli forces in Gaza while protesting the demolition of Palestinian houses in March 2002.
However, the Bush administration failed to warn Israel against committing such acts, and did not hesitate to condemn the Palestinians for something they cannot prove they did. This kind of unevenness when dealing with the region is not something new.
The United States failed to condemn the Israeli forces' recent demolitions of homes in Rafah. Israel may claim that they were destroying people's homes to blow up what they presume to be tunnels used to transfer arms in the territories, but nonetheless, Amnesty International condemned Israel's raiding and demolition of the Palestinian homes as constituting a war crime. According to U.N. officials, Israeli forces flattened at least 114 homes, making more than 1,000 Palestinian refugees homeless and eight Palestinians were killed in the action. Amnesty International said the ""deliberate and wanton destruction of homes and civilian property is a grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, notably of Articles 33 and 53 of the fourth Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime.""
Amnesty also called on the Israeli authorities to ""put an immediate end to the practice of destroying Palestinian homes and other properties, and of using excessive, disproportionate and reckless force against unarmed Palestinians ... which frequently result in the killing and injuring of unarmed civilians, including children.""
The most disturbing conclusion of all these events is that nothing is being done to stop the current cycle of violence. One cannot, as the neutral moderator of international conflict, condemn one group unilaterally while simultaneously giving the other the green light to continue what are seen as crimes justified as self-defense. What Israel claims is self-defense consists of an illegal occupation in which they are demolishing homes on a daily basis. The Bush administration has adopted the policy of condemning the Palestinians while encouraging Israel to continue what have already proven to be failed practices such as Israeli settlement-building in the territories and the simultaneous destruction of Palestinian homes.
It is in America's immediate interest to level a steady hand in our relationship with the region. Yes, Israel and its Arab neighbors have some issues to sort out. But for America to enter the situation under the pretense of being a neutral moderator and then condemn one side while condoning the other will prove not only to resolve nothing, but will harm America' s interests and image in that part of the world. One must remember that those who empower and supply what is seen as the proponent of war crimes will consequently be seen as such. During the past three years, Palestinians have complained about the more than $2 billion a year in American military aid to Israel.
If such an image gets tacked onto America, you can bet we won't get much support from other countries in the region when we approach them for assistance in such recent and pressing matters as the resolution on Iraq. With such a negative reputation, we will not be able to fairly pursue our interests in the region when it comes to negotiations or contracting resolutions.