A call for US to be fair to Palestinians
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Staff, 9/21/2001
IN REACTING to the attack on the United States, Ehud Sprinzak, a widely quoted Israeli terrorism expert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said, ''Many of us feel vindicated by this.'' He said the pictures ''are better than a thousand ambassadors trying to explain how dangerous Islamic terror is.''
Sprinzak said, ''From the perspective of Jews, it is the most important public relations act ever committed in our favor.''
That was a smug and brazen display of self-assuredness. Sprinzak assumes that the attacks will allow Israel to become the most innocent lamb in the Middle East.
As the United States shakes down the Islamic world for Osama bin Laden, Israel's army hopes it will be spared a shakeup of its relationship with us.
Contrary to Sprinzak's hope that the attack would play in Israel's ''favor,'' it should inspire in the United States a new sense of fairness. If terrorism out of the Middle East is to stop, America must stop fueling the spiral of violence with its lopsided support of Israel. America has to stop turning a blind eye to Israel's use of American weapons to kill Palestinians.
Much have been made of the Palestinians who cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center. Photos of rock-throwing Palestinians are a staple in American newspapers. In American households, names like ''Arafat,'' ''Hamas,'' and ''bin Laden'' are much more reflexively connected to Middle East violence than ''Lockheed Martin,'' ''Boeing,'' and ''Pratt and Whitney.''
It is tragic whenever a Palestinian mob or bomber kills Jews. But if Americans really want to understand why Americans might have been targeted for catastrophe in New York and Washington, we can no longer ignore the fact that we are helping the Israeli police and military to outkill Palestinians by more than a 3-to-1 margin.
In the last year of clashes, the Associated Press has counted 632 Palestinian and 174 Israeli deaths.
Americans can no longer ignore why Israel is winning the body count in their conflict. Since World War II, and despite some ups and downs in our relationship, Israel has been the largest total recipient of American aid, between $81 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service, and $92 billion, according to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a think tank founded by former American foreign service officers.
The beginning of large-scale sales to Israel began with the selling of Hawk missiles by President John F. Kennedy. Today, Israel has 320 American-made F-16 fighter planes, more than any other nation in the world except for the United States. Israel has ordered 100 more, which will be delivered through 2009.
While Palestinian children are criminalized for throwing rocks, Israel has not been seriously criticized for using its 50 American-made Apache helicopters (with orders for 29 more) to attack Palestinians with laser-guided missiles. According to Newsweek last month, US-made helicopters have been involved in nine of 29 assassination attempts by Israel.
''We spend a lot of money buying arms in the United States,'' Shlomo Dror, an Israeli defense spokesman, told Newsweek. ''I'm sure US companies would not want that to change.''
The United States sells plenty of arms to friendly Arab nations, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, but by all accounts, Israel gets the most lethal equipment with the best targeting electronics.
Though on paper it appears that Egypt is close to Israel in US aid, the quality of the aid is so different that retired US Army Colonel Norvell B. De Atkine told The Wall Street Journal a year ago, ''from a military point of view, the gap between Israeli and Arab military might has widened profoundly over the last 15 years.''
The gap in carnage has widened so profoundly that it is no surprise that the Arab world is angry not only at Israel, but at us for letting Israel behave too often as if it is a law unto itself.
The United States never said much back in the 1980s when Israel sold arms to the apartheid regime in South Africa and not much now when Israel has bulldozed and impounded Palestinians into parched lands no different than Soweto. While 1,300 Israelis have been injured in clashes, at least 10 times more Palestinians, more than 14,000, have been injured by the more potent Israeli police and military.
Until that imbalance is confronted, America is chasing only symptoms, not solutions. No one no longer doubts how dangerous Islamist terrorism is. We might not have had to experience it so horribly here at home, if we had long ago condemned Israeli terrorism, conducted with weapons made here at home.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is [email protected]
This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 9/21/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.