Saturday, May 31

Unjustifiable Shortsightedness with a Xenophobic Touch

While PM Ehud Olmert is wallowing in his legal problems because of his love of good living and millionaires who can feather his nest of influence, there are certain injustices happening in the south of Israel. It is not only the Qassam rockets that Hamas terrorists are firing into Israel which is in itself despicable and justifies retaliation, but also the way the retaliation is being carried out.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (a Nobel Prize Laureate and ex Archbishop of Cape Town) was appointed to head the special committee by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to investigate the deaths of 19 Palestinians in Bet Hanun in November 2006 killed by Israel fire. The Israeli authorities refused to grant him a visa for this purpose. In the end he arrived with his team via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. Had Israel granted him a visa for this purpose, it would have proved that Israel had nothing to hide and that there is a desire for openness of what really happened on that fateful day. By refusing to grant permission, Israel is held suspect of hiding information on this incident in the eyes of the world. Apart from that, Tutu also intended to pay a visit to Sderot to see the damage done by Qassam rockets and to interview the victims. This was also denied him. This is unfortunate and Tutu was unable to see both sides of the conflict in an impartial fashion. Apart from gaining entry into Gaza and interviewing Gazan families in Bet Hanun about the incident in question, he was unable to see the Sderot side of events. Surely this must be viewed as a tactical blunder on the part of Israel. It serves no purpose apart from denting Israel’s credibility in the eyes of the world.

According to an Agence France Press Report, a tearful Palestinian family recounted losing loved ones in an Israeli attack and the ruling Hamas movement expounded its hard-line stance.

Archbishop Tutu listened to members of the Assamna family tell of a 2006 Israeli shelling of their village that killed 19 civilians, including eight children, while they were sleeping.

"I was here with my son. I was holding his hand when he died. Can you imagine a mother holding the intestines of her own son," said Tahini al-Assamna through her tears, describing the scene after the attack.

Tutu commented that the purpose of the visit was to gather information to write a report for the UN Human Rights Council, "but we wanted to say that we are quite devastated."

The Palestinian woman told Tutu and his UN team that she also lost three brothers-in-law in the attack. And her husband was killed two days before the bombing during an Israeli army operation against rocket firings from Gaza.

Imad Okal, a UN representative in northern Gaza, looked around the Assamna house and commented that it was "very evident that this building was a residential home."

Leaning against a scorched wall of the house, Saad Abdallah Assamna, 52, said he only hoped that "there will be an inquiry and those responsible will be judged before an international tribunal.

It appears that what happened on that fateful day, was conveniently swept under the carpet like many other incidents that should not have occurred. After an internal investigation, Israel concluded that shelling the civilians' homes was "a rare and grave technical error of the artillery radar system."

Another incident disconnected with the UN Human Rights Council investigation under Archbishop Tutu, is Israel’s refusal to allow 8 Palestinian students who had received prestigious Fulbright Fellowships from US academic institutions to study in the US.

It is unjustifiable to prevent Gaza students who have received scholarships to further their studies in the US. Students are the potential leaders of their people in the future. If they are denied the right to study because of the Hamas regime, this is a form of xenophobia. Students who have the ability must be given every opportunity. It does not serve the interests of Israel or the Palestinians if all doors are closed to them. It will further encourage extremism and hate. Denying a student the right to study overseas will not end terrorism or result in Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It will take away Palestinian hopes of a better life and will exacerbate the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians even further. Everything must be done to allow these Gaza students to receive their Fulbright Scholarships to study. This is typical of Israel’s self righteous shortsightedness and fears.

According to a report in Haaretz 30th May 2008, The U.S. State Department said Friday it was pressing Israel's government to allow eight Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip to travel to the United States to study on coveted Fulbright fellowships.

"We are trying to revisit this issue with the Israeli government," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters, referring to Israel's failure to grant exit visas for the students.

"Frankly, a decision to let people that have been vetted for what is perhaps the most prestigious foreign educational program run by the United States ... it ought to be [as easy as] falling off a log for them to be able to do this."

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she would investigate a report that the State Department had withdrawn Fulbright Scholarship grants to the Palestinian students because they were denied exit visas by Israel.

Hadeel Abu Kawik, 23, a computer engineering student, received her scholarship after a lengthy process that included interviews, exams and an English test.

"I was building my hope on this scholarship," she said Friday.

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip in an effort to protect bordering Israeli towns and punish the Hamas militants who took over Gaza last June. Israel controls movement in and out of the territory as well as utilities for about 1.3 million Palestinian residents in Gaza.

Abdulrahman Abdullah, one of the eight Gazans who received the letter, was shocked.

"If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society," he said. "I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?"

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing Wednesday on the issue of student movement out of Gaza, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine. This is an encouraging sign that not all in Israel agree with the policy to prevent Gaza’s students from studying in the US.

"This could be interpreted as collective punishment," said Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Education Committee in Parliament, during the hearing. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules." Melchior is a member of Meimad, a small party allied to the Labor Party.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Candidly, your article could have been written by a Palestinian, most of whom clearly would love to see the Jews thrown into the sea.

In reality it would be great if there was a secular state comprising Israel and Palestine where everyone could live in peace and harmony, but adherents to both these religions will not allow it and so for generations to come, the two sides will be at war.

By definition war which is usually bred by religious intolerance, in itself creates chaos, mayhem and unspeakable disasters involving the innocent as well as the guilty.

Americans in general would not want to have Palestinians as students and there is an argument that allowing this should only take place when education among the Muslims teaches tolerance and free thinking, without the trappings of religion, else the USA would be allowing a Trojan horse within its borders.

War is not supposed to be just, nor can it be other than Xenophobic since after all its purpose is to overthrow the status quo.

I think respectfully that your article will anger most of the folks that you have sent it to and please the Muslims that would read it. The latter would of course kill you and your family nevertheless, given half a chance.

All the best,