The HyperTexts

The NAKBA: The Holocaust of the Palestinians
Independence Day Madness

by Michael R. Burch, July 4, 2009

Today is a day of celebration: Independence Day. But even as Americans rejoice in their 233rd consecutive holiday from tyranny, a six-term United States congresswoman languishes in an Israeli jail. Her crime? Trying to deliver illegal, presumably deadly contraband to the children of Gaza. How did this Act of High Treason, this Crime against Humanity, this Independence Day Madness come about?

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
—Michael R. Burch, "Epitaph for a Palestinian Child"

Recently Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter visited Gaza and during a speech there he mentioned seeing children's playground equipment being rejected by the Israeli military, which controls the gates of what has become a walled ghetto interring approximately 1.5 million Palestinians, the majority of them children, women and the elderly. Carter explained that his interest had been piqued and when he asked what was going on, he was told that even crayons and paper had also been banned from Gaza as "security hazards." Perplexed and perturbed, Carter had requested an explanation from Israeli officials, but failed to receive a satisfactory reply. He concluded, quite reasonably, that this was because a satisfactory explanation is not possible. (I realize it will be difficult for freedom-loving Americans to believe Israel would deny innocent minority children the right to create Crayola art, but please read on, because the plot decidedly thickens.)

Now the Spirit of Humanity has been hijacked, both literally and metaphorically!

Today, while you and I celebrate Independence Day, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire and former six-term Congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, along with up to 19 other hijacked peace activists, sit in a notorious Israeli prison for the "crime" of trying to deliver "security hazards" to the children of Gaza. Their ship, the Spirit of Humanity, was hijacked at gunpoint in international waters, 23 miles off the coast of Gaza, and diverted to Israel. Cynthia McKinney is now Ramle prisoner number 88794. Her crime? She had boarded the Spirit of Humanity at the last minute, carrying crayons and coloring books for the children of Gaza. So Jimmy Carter spoke the truth, however implausible that truth must seem to Americans who don't believe in punishing toddlers for the circumstances of their birth.

Do I engage in hyperbole when I speak of Independence Day Madness, and the Spirit of Humanity being shanghaied? Nay, I am merely reporting the facts. Cynthia McKinney, a former United States presidential candidate who hails from the state of Georgia and is now peace activist (and who, interestingly, shares all three attributes with Jimmy Carter), is now Ramle prisoner 88794, for having committed the same heinous crime Carter had inquired about just days before: giving Palestinian children highly hazardous crayons and coloring paper.

This is quite a synchronicity! Albert Einstein said coincidence is how God reveals himself. Is it possible that God is trying to tell us something about the ludicrousness of a world in which Israel denies crayons and paper to Palestinian kindergartners, while Americans are deluged with emails whenever Jewish professors are denied their rights? I constantly receive emails informing me that Jewish professors in far-flung parts of the globe are not being treated with perfect equality. Now I am all for Jewish professors having the right to teach without being discriminated against, but what about the rights of little Palestinian children to walk to school without being cursed and spat on by Jewish settlers and the Israeli military? Let's not forget that just a few years ago, little black children in the Deep South were being abused by supposedly "superior" white adults. Today we correctly call such adults "bigots" and "prisoners," not "superior." Their self-purported "superiority" was an evil fantasy: a sick joke. When we see small children being reduced to tears by the actions of  adults running amok, armed with pitchforks and machine guns, isn't it time for a quick sanity check?

Is it possible that, once again, we are seeing innocent children being persecuted for the circumstances of their birth, while adults blame their victims for the atrocities they suffer? Yes, I believe this is the case.

Why are Americans besieged with emails whenever Jewish adults are discriminated against, and yet we have heard little or nothing about a two-year siege and blockade of Gaza, which has caused hundreds of thousands of children to go without food, clean drinking water, clothes, shoes, playground equipment, crayons and coloring books? Should Jewish adults be protected from discrimination? Yes, absolutely. Should we prefer the rights of Jewish adults free to leave their jobs at will, to those of innocent Palestinian children who have been herded like cattle into a giant corral and left there to suffer and die, or to suffer and live marginal existences? No, absolutely not. I refuse to care more about adults who are free than about children who are caged. How do you feel?

And here's something for Christians to ponder: Jesus reserved most of his criticism for the hypocrites of his day, and we don't expect someone who's perfect to change his tune. How will Jesus separate the sheep from the goats, on the day of reckoning? Surely he'll start by weeding out his sworn enemies: the hypocrites. So it seems vitally important for Christians not to indulge in hypocrisy, and especially not at the expense of innocent children. If this synchronicity is not merely the unlikeliest of all possible accidents, and if all things happen for a reason in God's good time, I am drawn to the inevitable conclusion that Israel's injustices and the hypocrisies of the United States are taxing God's patience. Perhaps God has given us a chance to reflect on the absurdity of the policies and actions of Israel and the United States, in regard to the Palestinians. How long can God abide innocent children being used as pawns in a game of international brinksmanship? Would Jesus deny crayons and coloring books to toddlers who have suffered through one horror after another? Or would he say, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Now the Israeli navy is patrolling international waters, violating international law, and going as far as brazenly hijacking ships full of Nobel Peace Prize winners, US presidential candidates, and other peace activists ... over children's crayons and coloring books! (Please let me be completely factual and point out that the Spirit of Humanity was carrying other nefarious cargo, such as medical supplies, olive trees and cement. These happen to be things the Gazans need to rebuild their shattered lives, after two years of a siege which has seen Israel holding up shipments of milk, diapers and various other "security hazards" aimed at babies and toddlers. Oh, and the ship's cargo also included toys. There may have even been a few candy bars on board, and perhaps sodas.) One would think the Israelis would want peace activists to help the Gazans, since Israel amid all its plenty has denied them the stuff of life. But please remember that we are talking about Independence Day Madness: such things are not meant to make any sense whatsoever.

Was this an isolated incidence: the Spirit of Humanity being hijacked by the Israeli navy? Not at all. In December 2008 the Israeli navy rammed the Dignity, a ship carrying over three tons of medical supplies to Gaza. It seems neither human Dignity nor the Spirit of Humanity are safe from the ire of the Israeli military, should relief be offered to Palestinian children. And the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 70 miles from the coast of Gaza.

The Israeli navy also attacked and badly damaged a US navy ship, the USS Liberty, when it was in international waters, 25.5 miles northwest of Egypt, with 34 American sailors dying as a result and 171 being wounded. So it seems Israel has scuttled the Spirit of Humanity, human Dignity and Liberty, all in international waters.

Is God trying to send us a message, or is this merely happenchance? Whichever the case, it seems clear that Israel is now waging war on innocent women and children, while Christians twiddle their thumbs and look to the skies, awaiting, one must presume, the return of a Savior who will incongruously congratulate them for their complicity in this new Holocaust. (To me such congratulations seem highly unlikely, but what do I know? I have always believed that men should protect women and children from harm, not inflict legions of horrors on them.)

What would Jesus do, I wonder? Can we safely assume that he will appear to congratulate Christians for helping to inflict such suffering on innocent Palestinians? Would he do such things himself? Of course not. Can we expect Jesus to congratulate us for doing what he obviously would never have done himself?

The hypocrisy of this theater of the absurd would be comical, if so many innocents weren't suffering and dying so horrifically, on our watch. I find myself ashamed of my government and my religion. When I talk to other Christians, they often want to debate theology, rather than act to help the suffering and dying. Have we forgotten the parable of the Good Samaritan? The Good Samaritan was a man of the wrong religion who acted with compassion when priests turned up their noses at the sight of a beaten, bloodied man. Can we credit the idea that Jesus, who told the parable, would congratulate us for turning up our noses at the sight of beaten, bloodied, terrorized women and children? No, I find that impossible to believe.

I am not an anti-Semite. I am an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry. Through the years I have worked with Jewish Holocaust survivors, poets and translators, always opposing racism in any form and always saying "Never again!" to another Holocaust. But I have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart capable of compassion, and a brain capable of  reason. They combine to tell me that Americans have been lied to, and taken advantage of. We say that we believe in equal rights for all human beings. But in the case of Israel and the Palestinians, we have violated the American Creed and supported blatant racism and injustice, for over 60 years. If we want to have peace and avoid unnecessary, fruitless, unwinnable wars on Muslim soil, it is past time for us to face the facts. It is past time for the United States to take the lead, and stop following Israel blindly into the proverbial ditch. If we don't know to protect innocent women and children from a Holocaust, what good are our religion, our ideals, our morals, our government, and our society?

But perhaps all this seems far away. Why should we care? If not for the sake of simple humanity, because, the fate of the world as we know it may rest with the Gazans. Your fate, my fate, and the fate of our loved ones may well be inextricably linked with their fate. So we should all be allies: Christians, American Jews, Israeli Jews, the other Jews of the world, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, atheists ... everyone, together. We all have nothing to gain if the Gazans perish, and everything to lose.

Why? The answer is simple, although almost no one seems to see the forest for the trees: Unless we end the siege of Gaza, soon, there is likely to be a devastating plague there. That plague, because it will involve the deaths of multitudes of innocent Muslim women and children, will almost inevitably lead to more events like 9-11. Those events will, in all likelihood, lead to World War III. Then, because of what has transpired in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear war may result, because US politicians now know that we can neither win nor afford more wars on Muslim soil. I will be glad (although of course not happy) to explain my reasoning in more detail. But first let me put things in the simplest possible terms: Not to save the Gazans from a plague is to risk the end of the world as we know it. Those who survive may be the unlucky ones. So let's see what we can to, together, to save the Gazans, ourselves, and our loved ones. And yes, I do have a plan: a very simple plan, for peace in the Mideast. Simple does not mean easy. What simple means is something we can begin doing today, and know why we're doing it, and why it will help. And, at the very least, we will have a goal, and a plan, and the goal and the plan will make sense. If at any time I begin to bore you, please search this page for "UN resolution" and at least consider my plan, which I have never heard proposed by anyone else, to date.

Why will there be a plague in Gaza, unless we do something soon? Because constant malnutrition, stress, fear, despair, unsanitary conditions and sleep deprivation all combine to weaken the human immune system. These are the conditions in Gaza today. The very young and the elderly are the most vulnerable. Things are much worse than people realize. During his stay in Gaza, Jimmy Carter said the Palestinians have been treated more like animals than human beings. Here is what other experts and people who have observed the carnage have to say . . .

In his article, "Rescue the Spirit of Humanity," written in response to the hijacking of the Spirit of Humanity, the Rabbi Brant Rosen wrote:

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has grown beyond intolerable. If you have any doubts, just read this devastatingly important article by Sara Roy, senior research scholar at Harvard’s  Center for Middle Eastern Studies: "Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes. What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza’s [suffering of] terrible injustices not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law." And now the news has just come in that Israel has seized the Spirit of Humanity, a boat carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid in international waters, and is forcibly towing it to an Israeli port. The boat contained 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It was bringing medicine, toys, and other much needed humanitarian relief.

As you will find as you read this page, some of the best information about the plight of the Palestinians comes from Jewish sources. There are a number of Jewish humanitarian organizations which strongly oppose the brutal, racist treatment of the Palestinians. The situation today is much like that of Nazi Germany. On one side racists call for the brutal treatment of an "inferior" people, while blaming all the problems of the world on their victims. They are opposed on the other side by people of good conscience. Yes, there were Germans who opposed Hitler and his goons, but their voices were drowned out by a cacophony of racist propaganda. Today most Americans hear racist propaganda far more often than facts. Why has the hijacking of the Spirit of Humanity not been reported widely by American newspapers? We are getting far too much of our information from people who seem not to care about the fate of innocent children. What happened to Jewish children during the Holocaust? They were declared guilty by birth and forced to "live" (which meant to abide on the margins existence until they died) in walled ghettoes and concentration camps. Now the same thing is happening to Palestinian children, and most Americans barely bat an eye. But many Jewish people of good conscience speak repeatedly against the atrocities they see. You just heard one of them: Rabbi Brant Rosen You will soon hear other Jews speak for the human rights of Palestinians. But first let's consider what experts from all over the world have to say . . . Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was taken aback by the terrible conditions in Gaza, saying it was "almost unbelievable" that the world did not care about what she called "a shocking violation of so many human rights." She continued, "Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating."—BBC News, Nov. 4, 2008

The International Committee of the Red Cross has released a comprehensive report surveying the aftermath of the 22 day Israeli military operation in Gaza in January 2009. The report focuses on the impediments to the Gazans’ rebuilding efforts. Infrastructure, public health, farming and sanitation systems were all severely damaged and the lack of restoration to each of these sectors perpetuates the further degradation of all facets of Gazan society. In the report, the ICRC states that it “has repeatedly pointed out that Israel’s right to address its legitimate security concerns must be balanced against the right of the population in Gaza to lead a normal and dignified life. Under international humanitarian law, Israel has the obligation to ensure that the population's basic needs in terms of food, shelter, water and medical supplies are met,” concluding, “The alternative is a further descent into misery with every passing day.”

The World Heath Organization has reported that more than 80% of Gaza's drinking water is not up to WHO standards, and this was before Gaza's aquifer became contaminated with sewage (more on this below). Drinking water problems, sewage problems, malnutrition, stress, fear, despair, sleep deprivation, unsanitary conditions, compromised human immune systems and severe overcrowding all combine to increase the possibility of epidemics, especially during warm weather conditions.

WHO also reports that 30% of Gazan schoolchildren are showing "significant mental health consequences from the experiences," and points out that these mental health problems may lead to alienation and violent or destructive behavior. And yet around one hundred academics and mental health workers were recently denied entry to the Gaza Strip to attend an international medical conference there. The conference, organized by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), was forced to take place by video link. For many this "virtual" method proved less productive, as foreign experts and local health workers were generally unable to conduct sustained discussions and take advantage of each other's knowledge and proficiency. "It made it harder to exchange experiences," said Samir Qouta, a psychologist based in Gaza. The denial of entry for many health workers and visiting experts served to highlight just how isolated Gaza is from the rest of the world. Israeli security officials said the conference was political in nature. Attendees denied they had any interest in partisan issues. "According to my research, the siege is affecting social and economic life," said Qouta, adding "the impact is especially clear on the children. The quality of life has really deteriorated." Health experts say lack of medication and a shortage of specialized doctors are having an adverse effect on the Gazans' well-being in general, but that mental health is particularly affected, as there are very few mental health experts in Gaza, and patients cannot easily travel abroad. "The siege is making it worse. The people are suffering more," Qouta said. W.H.G. Wolters, a clinical psychotherapist from the Netherlands who attended the conference noted the tough challenges mental health workers in Gaza face in carrying out their work. "The workers face severe stress and traumatization, in addition to having to face their own survival in the difficult situation," Wolters said. In some cases, they had to treat their own family members, further complicating an already daunting job.

Can any of us really begin to understand what it's like to live and work in Gaza, when mental health professionals have to worry about their own survival and wellbeing, while treating their own families for trauma? Can we even begin to imagine what it would be like to be a Gazan child, or the child's mother, or a health care worker, during this siege of Gaza? "It was a very, very frustrating and emotionally demanding time," according to Dr. Samson Agbo, UNICEF's chief of child survival growth and development." You know what to do and what was required, but you could not do it. You just couldn't."

Also very troubling is a massive sewage flood, caused by the impact of an Israeli shell striking a treatment plant in Gaza, which is now visible from outer space, according to satellite images released by the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT). The shell “caused a massive outflow of sewage,” UNOSAT said. The sewage treatment plant in Sheikh Ajleen is Gaza’s largest, treating raw sewage from some 400,000 people. It has been out of operation since early January 2009. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which sent a field team with Palestinian engineers to Sheikh Ajleen, “raw sewage poured directly into residential areas, agricultural lands and the Mediterranean Sea, posing a serious public health threat.” The ICRC and a Palestinian team repaired a main sewage pipeline on January 22, “but extensive repair work needs to be carried out before the treatment plant is fully operational.” In a statement released on Thursday, the ICRC said that repair efforts “have been hampered by delays in obtaining approval from the Israeli authorities to bring in pipes and spare parts for Sheikh Ajleen and other water treatment plants.”

The result is the pumping of partially treated or untreated sewage directly into the sea, and the seepage of dirty water into the ground and groundwater. "The environmental situation in Gaza is bad and getting worse," an ICRC expert on water and sanitation said in a recent interview. While exact statistics are unavailable, 30,000-50,000 cubic meters of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic meters of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea. Some 10,000-30,000 cubic meters of partially treated sewage end up in the ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer, polluting Gaza's already poor-quality drinking water supply. Gaza's electricity problems have further exacerbated the situation. When power is limited, pumping sewage away from homes takes priority, leaving little left over for treatment, according to Monther Shoblak, head of the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utility.

There are three sewage treatment plants in Gaza: one in Beit Lahiya in the north, one near Gaza City, and one near Rafah in the south, which is only a primary treatment lagoon and incapable of treating most of the sewage it receives. In Khan Younis people still use septic tanks. The overload on the Beit Lahiya plant led to the creation of a "great lake" of effluent which occupies some 30 hectares and holds some 2-3 million cubic meters of waste water, which UN and non-governmental organization projects are currently working to slowly drain. In 2006 a smaller lake, which was used by the water utilities to hold sewage and take pressure off the "great lake" collapsed, killing five people in a "torrent of filth."

Efforts to address Gaza's problems of great lakes and lagoons of raw, seeping sewage have been stymied by Israel's refusal to allow construction materials and equipment to enter Gaza. A recent UN report cites Israel's blockade as the primary factor in the dumping of raw sewage into the Mediterranean, which has left beaches empty and fish unsafe to eat. Water quality tests conducted by the World Health Organization at 13 points along Gaza's coast found that four sites—three in Gaza City and one in Rafah—are contaminated with dangerous levels of bacteria associated with feces.

The bottom line? Raw sewage. Contaminated and increasingly brackish drinking water. Water contaminated with feces and bacteria. Constant malnutrition, stress, fear and despair. Children wetting their beds at night, unable to sleep, as Israeli helicopters and fighters scream overhead. Overworked health care professionals worried about their own survival, who have to treat their own families before going to work. All for the sake of the "security" of Israeli Jews. But the Israeli Jews are not secure. The closer the Gazans inch toward a devastating plague, the closer Israeli Jews, American Jews and other Americans inch toward imminent peril. This truly is a zero sum game. There can be no "winners," only losers, if innocent Gazans die in large numbers.

If simple humanity and human compassion cannot persuade people to help the Gazans, then enlightened self-interest should.

Of course this is not what most Jews and Americans want to hear. What they seemingly want to hear is that the Palestinians are responsible for their own misery, and that as long as they are responsible, the injustices of Israel and the United States can safely be ignored or discounted. But this is akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, dreaming it's "safe," while exposing its rump to a pride of lions. What we have been programmed to believe makes no sense at all. All that matters, really, is this question: who condemned the Gazans to live inside a walled ghetto? The answer is clear: Israel and the United States. How many UN resolutions have called for relief for the Palestinians? Over forty. Who opposed them? Israel. Who vetoed them? The United States. Why? Because American politicians have ignored the interests of our children and grandchildren, to woo the votes and campaign contributions of pro-Israeli lobbies. In short, we have been betrayed, and our children and grandchildren have been betrayed, for the political aspirations of our politicians. Why is President Obama not doing many of the things he promised? Because he’s a politician, and he too wants to be re-elected. This is the reality we have to deal with. How can we change this reality? By telling our politicians that we will not re-elect them unless they put the interests of our children and grandchildren highest on their priority list. If a plague in Gaza may well lead to World War III and/or a nuclear holocaust, shouldn’t preventing a plague in Gaza be at the top of our priority list?

The head of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, calls the situation there "a full-blown and major humanitarian crisis." Malene Sonderskov says, "Gaza has the highest prevalence of traumatized children in the world." Why? Because in addition to using lethal force against Gazans, Israel has established a siege and blockade of Gaza, limiting or eliminating the basic stuff of life. As a result, the World Health Organization says one third of Gazan children under five and women of child-bearing age are anemic, while thousands are malnourished. This, too, increases the likelihood of an epidemic.

At the same time, new strains of highly infectious, drug resistant diseases are on the rise all over the world. The best American hospitals are struggling to contain these new diseases. What will happen when a highly infectious, drug resistant disease strikes Gaza, where 1.4 million people are crammed together in one of the densest populations on earth? The very young and the very old will be the hardest hit, and the most likely to die. Who will tend to the children? Their mothers and grandmothers. Who, then, will be the most likely to die? Babies, toddlers, mothers and grandmothers. Who, pray tell, are the least likely to be "terrorists"? Babies, toddlers, mothers and grandmothers.

Do you see the very real danger we face? The governments of Israel and the United States have conspired together—in fear, ignorance and hubris—to condemn the people least likely to be terrorists to the most likely deaths. We cannot trust Israeli or American politicians to do what is right, and so my plan recognizes this reality and addresses it.

What will a billion Muslims do, when they see multitudes of innocents dying, who cannot possibly be considered "terrorists" or "criminals"? What would Americans do, if some outside agency caused innocent Americans to die? We know the answer. As soon as 9-11 had taken place, we were ready to go to war, regardless of the cost, to protect our innocent civilians. How can we expect Muslims not to do the same? They will be every bit as angry as we were, and rightfully so.

But why did 9-11 take place, in the first place? When this question was posed by Lee Hamilton, Vice Chair of the September 11 Commission, the FBI special agent who answered, James Fitzgerald, said that the 9-11 attacks were caused by the attackers who identified with the Palestinians and were outraged with the US (because the US supports Israel no matter how many horrors Israel inflicts on Palestinians). This testimony was kept out of the 9-11 Commission Report, but it was recorded on C-SPAN and you can watch the question/answer session on YouTube by clicking on this link.

Why was this simple, obvious answer suppressed? Because it is very inconvenient for our politicians, for several reasons. First, because they're the ones who opted to support Israel regardless of how many innocent women and children Israel condemned to suffer and die, whether those deaths were lingering deaths or more immediate. Second, because they want the votes and campaign contributions of a powerful pro-Israel lobby. Third, because they want the votes and campaign contributions of conservative Christians who believe the world will end in the near future, and that Jesus Christ will descend from the clouds at the last minute to save anyone who sides with the Israeli Jews. But there are a number of reasons for even the most devout of Christians to doubt that the views of conservative Christians are correct. You can view rational arguments for not allowing innocent women and children to die needless deaths, arguments based on the Bible, by clicking here.

What did Osama bin Laden said himself? "Your position against Muslims in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful. America has no shame ... We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind  ... The fatwah is general (comprehensive) and it includes all those who participate in, or help the Jewish occupiers in killing Muslims ... For over half a century, Muslims in Palestine have been slaughtered and assaulted and robbed of their honor and of their property. Their houses have been blasted, their crops destroyed. And the strange thing is that any act on their part to avenge themselves or to lift the injustice befalling them causes great agitation in the United Nations, which hastens to call for an emergency meeting only to convict the victim and to censure the wronged and the tyrannized whose children have been killed and whose crops have been destroyed and whose farms have been pulverized."

We have been programmed to believe that Osama bin Laden is a madman. But his facts are basically correct. When Sitting Bull led an insurrection of Native Americans, was he a madman, or was he leading a people with little or nothing to lose, whose backs were against the wall? We now know that Sitting Bull had more than legitimate grievances against the government which oppressed his people. Who was more in the wrong: Sitting Bull, or the United States government? The question is rhetorical and the answer is obvious. If we consider the facts pertaining to the Palestinians, rather than blindly accepting racist propaganda, we will immediately discover that the Palestinians are in the same predicament as Native Americans. Should Sitting Bull have submitted meekly to the rape and pillage of his people, or did he have every right to resist? What the governments of Israel and the United States do not want us to do is consider this fundamental question. Why? Because the American Declaration of Independence clearly declares that it is the right of any people who have been denied freedom, equal rights and justice to resist, using force. Like Sitting Bull, Osama bin Laden is more right than wrong.

Do I condone terrorism? Of course not. But is it possible that Muslims have legitimate grievances against Israel and the United States? Yes. We can understand these grievances by considering the policies and actions of Israel and the United States against innocent Palestinian women and children. Should we correct those injustices, regardless of what Osama bin Laden does? Yes, we should. Until we correct them, who is more wrong than right? Clearly, Israel and the United States.

The bottom line is this: while terrorism is a terrible thing, what Israel and the United States have done to millions of Palestinians constitutes terrorism on a massive scale. The terrorists didn't attack the US because they hate Americans, but because they hate and despise the policies and actions of our government. Yes, they were wrong to kill our innocent civilians. But we were wrong first, because the policies and actions of our government, in collusion with the government of Israel, caused millions of Palestinians to suffer, and multitudes to die before their time. Muslims have valid grievances against Israel and the United States, and if we were to face the facts, rather than living in a fantasyland where we are the "good guys" no matter what we do, we might find a path to peace that doesn't require our soldiers dying on Muslim soil in unnecessary, fruitless, needless wars. Our politicians don't want to admit that for more than 60 years they have funded and supported a Holocaust of the Palestinians, which has led directly to 9-11, the deaths of thousands of American citizens, and two exorbitantly costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now, unless we learn from our errors of the past, we face the possibility of World War III.

If Palestinians die in large numbers, who will Muslims blame? The answer is obvious. They will blame Israel, and the United States. And unfortunately they will be more right than wrong. Israel has denied the Palestinians their freedom and self-evident human rights, ever since the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of 1948, while continuing to steal what little land and water the Palestinians have left. And the United States has foolishly funded and supported this new Holocaust, by providing Israel with many billions of dollars in financial aid, vetoes of over forty UN resolutions which might have brought relief to the Palestinians, and innumerable advanced weapons (many of which have been used against civilians). Of course Jews and Americans do not want to admit these things. We want to believe that Israel is "good," that the United States is "good," and that the Palestinians are a nation of "terrorists." But this is an absurd, evil, nonsensical fiction. The facts prove otherwise. I believed the convenient, prevailing fictions for most of my 51 years on this planet. But then one day I began to realize there was something terribly wrong with the emails my Jewish friends were sending me. As long as I agreed with them about Israel, they were cordial. But if I asked them questions about the conditions of the Palestinians or the policies and actions of the government of Israel, they became defensive, evasive, hostile. I couldn't understand this. Why should Israel be above questioning? Americans constantly question the policies and actions of our government. And so I decided to research the matter of Israel and the Palestinians independently. Please allow me to tell you what I discovered. It only took me a few hours of research to refute the "facts" I had been told about Israel and the Palestinians. Everything I had been told to believe was a house of cards.

The main facts are easy to confirm. What we must do is concentrate on facts, while ignoring opinions which cannot be confirmed, on both sides. There is such a thing as Jewish propaganda. There is also such a thing as Arab propaganda. But there are also verifiable facts. So let us examine them, now, together . . .

(1) First, there is the question of who "owns" the land, and why and how. Before 1948, the year Israel became a nation, the Palestinians owned more than 90% of the land, and were predominately farmers, not "terrorists." There was no PLO, no Fatah, no Hezbollah, no Hamas. These organizations came into being later, as a result of multitudes of Palestinians having lost their land, homes, farms and businesses and thus the ability to provide for themselves. These organizations are the effects of the disease (injustice), not the cause, just as the Black Panthers were the result of the American disease of racial injustice, not the cause.

Why did Sitting Bull and his warriors go to war? Because of the massive injustices suffered by Native Americans at the hands of the government of the United States. Was Sitting Bull a criminal? Of course not. The government of the United States portrayed Native Americans as savages and criminals because it had an agenda. That agenda was to blatantly steal Indian land, while pushing innocent men, women and children to the margins of existence. How many innocents suffered and died on the Trail of Tears? What must we think of the "Christians" who turned their backs on those innocents, and allowed them to suffer and die so horrifically? Now a collusion of Americans, American Jews and Israeli Jews is allowing the same things to happen to Palestinians.

Before 1948, the Palestinians owned a preponderance of the land of present-day Israel/Palestine. Suddenly, in 1948 and shortly thereafter, they no longer owned great swaths of that land, hundreds of their villages had been bulldozed, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were living in refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere. How did this happen? As many Jewish historians, reporters, humanitarians and lay people now admit, armed Israeli Jews deliberately participated in ethnic cleansing. They had been provided with weapons by 50 million dollars raised from American Jews by Golda Meir. (Read her autobiography if you want to confirm this, since she admits it herself.) American money and influence were used to aid and abet the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Most of these Palestinians were farmers and non-combatants. The armies that invaded Israel were those of bordering nations like Egypt and Jordan. A non-combatant farmer is clearly not responsible for the actions of sovereign nations, whether good, bad or indifferent. When the war of 1948 was over, these non-combatant farmers and their families had every right to return to their land and reclaim their homes and property. Not only did the UN not "give" their land to the Israeli Jews, the UN has absolutely no right to "give" the legal property of any person to any other person. Can the UN "give" me your house, or vice versa? Of course not: the idea is absurd. A UN mandate had established a new democratic state which at the time had a slight majority of Jews. But this democratic state was supposed to protect the rights of all its citizens, equally, including those of its minorities, which were close to half its population. But the Israeli Jews realized that demographics presented them a real problem, since they had only a tenuous majority. Their solution was simple, if horrific: evict the unwanted Palestinians, bulldoze their villages, leave them homeless and destitute, and keep them from ever returning. This was their "solution" and it reeks of injustice.

How do we know this actually happened?

Because one day hundreds of Palestinian villages existed, but shortly thereafter they didn't. Hundreds of villages don't disappear by "accident."

Because suddenly multitudes of displaced Palestinians were living in refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere. Farmers don't voluntarily abandon their farms and livelihoods to live impoverished lives in refugee camps.

Because the Israeli Jews didn't own or control most of the land before 1948, but after 1948, "miraculously," they did. How did so much land change hands, without anyone paying for it? It was clearly stolen, in clear violation of every civilized law known to man. What would Americans say if there was a flood or other catastrophe, and people fled their homes temporarily, only to have other people claim "squatter's rights" and steal their homes? Many of us work the better parts of our lives to be able to own a house and a small parcel of land. Land is expensive. Houses are expensive. How many of us can afford to have someone else steal our life's work and savings, which for many of us our houses represent? How is it in any way fair for another man to claim in an hour what I worked all my life to procure? If such a thing had happened to any American, he would be devastated.

Now we know why so many Palestinians are devastated, and have been for over 60 years. This is the most fundamental fact Americans need to understand about the Nakba: the palpable evil and injustice of a peaceful, law-abiding family losing everything for the sudden "economic benefit" of newcomers. The situation of the Palestinians is very much like that of Native Americans and Australian aborigines, who were suddenly confronted by better-armed newcomers, who stole their land, robbed them blind, then "cleansed" the land by herding them off to refugee camps, where they could suffer and die without their conquerors having to abide their wretchedness and despair. The German people did not want to see the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust. My Cherokee ancestors walked the Trail of Tears because my white ancestors did not want to live close to them, or see their suffering. But this was an event which preceded true democracy in the United States. A true democracy must protect the rights of its minorities. Surely Americans no longer advocate stealing the land and property of people of other races and creeds!

But this is what clearly happened to the Palestinians, just 60 years ago. Has the statute of limitations on justice run out? No, because Jews continue to seek reparations for their losses during the Holocaust. The injustices of the Holocaust preceded those of the Nakba. If Jews are entitled to reparations for injustices which occurred before 1948, then surely Palestinians are as well. Are all human beings entitled to justice, or only the Jews? This is a perplexing question, because some Americans may struggle to answer it. The obvious answer is that all human beings are entitled to justice, equally. But because we have been programmed never to question Israel or the Jews, we feel as if "something is wrong" if we speak for the rights of Palestinians or Muslims. This is a mindset we simply must break. All human beings have exactly the same rights. There is no reason to accede Jews more rights than Palestinians. It is not anti-Semitic to say a Palestinian child has exactly the same rights as a Jewish child (and most Palestinians are Semites). There is no reason to believe that Israel is "in the right" merely because Israel is a Jewish state, and Jews suffered during the Holocaust. I'm an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry. I have always admired the Jewish people and have always considered the Holocaust an abomination. But this does not mean that I must favor Jews over Palestinians. If Jews do to Palestinians what Nazis did to Jews, I must use discernment and be fair. This is why I oppose the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of the Palestinians just as strongly as I have always opposed the Shoah ("Catastrophe") of the Jews.

(2) Second, there is the evidence of the dividing, conquering, killing walls erected by Israel on Palestinian land. No one can deny that these walls exist, because they are up to thirty feet high: twice as high as the Berlin Wall. Was the Berlin Wall a defensive wall? No it was a highly offensive wall, which caused the deaths of many innocent Germans who only wanted their freedom, human rights, and dignity. Now Palestinians are dying in ambulances at these new dividing, conquering, killing walls, including mothers in labor and their babies. What is the best evidence that these walls are offensive, rather than defensive? Well, many of the walls are built on Palestinian land. If I build a wall on my land, I may have built a defensive wall. But if I build a wall on your land, that is clearly an offensive wall, meant to claim your land as mine. The walls Israel has erected must be considered offensive walls, wherever they exist on Palestinian land.

(3) Third, Israel has also built "Jewish only" roads and settlements on Palestinian land. I live in Tennessee. Suppose Tennesseans agreed to give millions of Cubans the right to establish a Cuban state within the borders of Tennessee. Then suppose the Cubans began to build "Cuban only" roads and towns on land we hadn't given them. Would this be fair? If someone gives someone else something they didn't pay for, should they not only take more, but claim superiority as well? But what if Tennesseans hadn't agreed to give any land to the Cubans in the first place? This is very much the situation of the Palestinians. They didn't agree to give their land away: it was taken from them, by force. Then the same people who had taken their land without their permission began to build walls, roads and buildings on their remaining land. These people then told them, "Stay off our roads; they are only for us." How would Tennesseans feel if there were roads reserved for a "superior" people, in the state their ancestors founded and settled? Again, the injustice is palpable. I cannot imagine being a Palestinian, and seeing Jews driving on "Jewish only" roads on my family's ancestral land. Because I am a freedom-loving American who believes in equal rights for all human beings, I can only see this as an act of overt racism and an outrage. The Israeli Jews already have huge tracts of land they didn't pay for, which they took by force of arms and outright robbery. How can they now have the effrontery and gall to build "Jewish only" roads and settlements on the little land the Palestinians have left? In case anyone thinks I'm being "unfair," let me quote the results of a major study of Israeli settlement practices conducted in 2002 by the respected Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem: "Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa." A more recent B'Tselem publication on the road system Israel has established in the West Bank again concluded that it "bears striking similarities to the racist Apartheid regime," and even "entails a greater degree of arbitrariness than was the case with the regime that existed in South Africa." As I pointed out previously, these matters are discussed openly in Israel, where decisions affecting Americans are made on a regular basis. But it seems that Americans are also considered “inferior” in that we are spoon-fed propaganda, as if we were infants. If we try to discuss these matters rationally with our Jewish friends, we are not treated as we would be treated if we were Jews. Instead, we are treated evasively, or defensively, or even with outright hostility. I do not consider myself superior to my Jewish friends, but neither do I consider myself inferior to them. I have a heart and a brain, and I am fully capable of using them simultaneously. Why have I been called a “pathetic disgrace” for supporting the rights of Palestinians to equal rights and justice? Why do many of my Jewish friends no longer wish to speak to me? To me, the answer is obvious. I am supposed to pledge unswerving allegiance to Israel, no matter how horrific her injustices. But for the sake of humanity, and my own children and grandchildren, I cannot support the injustices of Israel.

Jewish historians, TV stations, reporters, humanitarian organizations and lay people now freely discuss the injustices perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinians. But Americans are not privy to these discussions. We are supposed to blindly support Israel, to fork over hundreds of billions of dollars, and to allow our children to die as proxies for Israeli Jews on foreign soil. We are supposed to support Israel at any cost, while Jews figure out what we should do, at their behest. But for Americans this is insanity. We should do what is in our best interests, and our children's and our grandchildren's. Why should we wait for Israel to decide what we should do, when we have nothing to gain, and everything to lose? What do Americans gain, when Israeli Jews steal land and water from Palestinians? We gain absolutely nothing. We only imperil ourselves, and our children, and grandchildren.

This is the crazy thing: Israel knows Palestinians and Arab nations will act in their own best interests, as will every other nation on earth. But Americans are a "special case." We will not act in our own best national interests. Our politicians will act in the best interests of Israeli Jews. Until we prove that we have hearts, minds and wills of our own, and can act independently in the best interests of ourselves and our children, we are doomed to participate in the follies of Israel's racist leaders.

I had to open my eyes and clear my mind, in order to understand that my Jewish friends were misleading me. They wanted me to put their interests ahead of my own interests, and those of my loved ones. But they were so bedeviled by their own fear that they were incapable of making a sound decision. Rather than offering justice to the Palestinians, and gaining the chance of peace for themselves, they placed nooses around their own necks, then demanded that I join them at the gallows, along with my family. But I don't want my family to commit suicide, or to cause the suffering and deaths of innocents. Therefore, it is up to us, as Americans who understand the value of, and need for, equal rights and justice, to take the reins back, and do what is just and right. Israel must do what the United States did, and give equal rights and justice to every human being under its aegis.

(4) Fourth, the laws of Israel are matters of public record. Anyone can study them, as I have. Many of these laws are clearly racist, and therefore illegal. It is not a crime to break an illegal law, but it is crime to establish a racist, illegal law. Think about it. American slaveowners had "laws" which made it "illegal" for a slave to strike his "master" or run to freedom. A slave might be beaten or killed for trying to become free. If a slave heard that his "master" was about to sell his wife and children to other "masters" and split his family up, would it be a "crime" for him to attack his master, and rescue his wife and children? No, it is obvious that the "laws" of the white masters were racist and therefore illegal. The "masters" were the criminals, not the slaves. If a slave struck his "master," ran away, and then his "master" died, would any truly fair judge or jury find him guilty? No, because it is the right and duty of a man to protect his family. There is obviously something very, very wrong when "superior" races try to control who can marry whom, and who can live with whom. But the marriage and citizenship laws of Israel do just this. Israel routinely prevents Palestinians from living with their spouses, and even keeps parents from living with their children. Why? Because Israel has the mentality that the rights of Jews supersede those of any other race. Therefore, a Palestinian woman who lives in Israel and is a citizen of Israel may not be allowed to live with the man she chooses to marry. Even if she has children with her husband, by commuting back and forth to see him from time to time, their children may not be allowed to live with her. If she divorces her husband, or if he dies, she may not be able to obtain custody of her own children, unless she packs up and leaves Israel. Again, the injustice is palpable. A government should not tell its minority citizens the people they can marry, or under what circumstances they can live with their own children. When human marriages and families are not sacrosanct, something is deeply, terribly wrong. Something is deeply, terribly wrong with the government of Israel. The main problems are overt racism and palpable injustice.

(5) Fifth, the problems go even deeper. The laws of Israel seem to be designed to create situations which will cause Palestinians to lose their land, homes and property, to the political and economic benefit of Israeli Jews. Here is very troubling example. A 16-year-old Palestinian boy can be tried as an adult in a military court. But Jewish boy will not be tried until age 18, and then in a civilian court. Now suppose a Jewish settler has his eye on a Palestinian's land. He can have his son throw rocks at a younger Palestinian boy. When the Palestinian boy retaliates, the Jewish settler can call the Israeli military, report an act of "terrorism," and have the boy hauled into a military court where he can be detained indefinitely, while being denied access not only to a lawyer, but even to his own parents. Then the family  can have its house bulldozed for having harbored a "terrorist," and its land confiscated. If the Jewish settler has the right connections, he can end up with the land he had his eye on. Why do we see so many graphic pictures of young Palestinian boys throwing rocks, then ending up dead or being hauled off by the Israeli military? Do you think I exaggerate? Then please read this TIME article (and please note that thousands of Palestinian children have been arrested for throwing rocks).

Walid Abu Obeida, a 13-year-old Palestinian farm boy from the West Bank village of Ya'abad, had never spoken to an Israeli until he rounded a corner at dusk carrying his shopping bags and found two Israeli soldiers waiting with their rifles aimed at him. "They accused me of throwing stones at them," recounts Walid, a skinny kid with dark eyes. "Then one of them smacked me in the face, and my nose started bleeding."

According to Walid, the two soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him, dragged him to a jeep and drove away. All that his family would know about their missing son was that his shopping bags with meat and rice for that evening's dinner were found in the dusty road near an olive grove. Over the course of several days in April last year, the boy says he was moved from an army camp to a prison, where he was crammed into a cell with five other children, cursed at and humiliated by the guards and beaten by his interrogator until he confessed to stone-throwing.

Walid says he saw his parents for only five seconds when he was brought before an Israeli military court and accused by the uniformed prosecutor not only of throwing stones but of "striking an Israeli officer." The military judge ignored the latter charge and chose to prosecute Walid only for allegedly heaving a stone at soldiers.

The boy got off lightly: he spent 28 days in prison and was fined 500 shekels (approximately $120). Under Israeli military law, which prevails in the Palestinian territories, the crime of throwing a stone at an Israeli solider or even at the monolithic 20-ft.-high "security barrier" enclosing much of the West Bank can carry a maximum 20-year-prison sentence. Since 2000, according to the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, more than 6,500 children have been arrested, mostly for hurling rocks.

Walid's story is hardly unusual, judging from a report on the Israeli military-justice system in the West Bank compiled by the Palestine office of the Geneva-based Defense for Children International, which works closely with the U.N. and European states. Human-rights groups in Israel and elsewhere have also condemned the punishment meted out to Palestinian children by Israeli military justice. Most onerous, says Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem, is that inside the territories, the Israeli military deems any Palestinian who is 16 years and older as an adult, while inside Israel, the U.S. and most other countries, adulthood is reached at age 18.

The report states that "the ill-treatment and torture" of Palestinian child prisoners "appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command." The group's director, Rifaat Kassis, says the number of child arrests rose sharply in the past six months, possibly because of a crackdown on Palestinian protests in the West Bank in the aftermath of Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

The Geneva organization's report alleges that under Israeli military justice, it is the norm for children to be interrogated by the Israeli police and army without either a lawyer or a family member present and that most of their convictions are due to confessions extracted during interrogation sessions or from "secret evidence," usually tip-offs from unnamed Palestinian informers. If so, the practice may violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which Israel ratified in 1991. In response to TIME's queries, a lawyer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that under "security legislation" and Israel's interpretation of international law, no lawyer or relative need be present during a child's interrogation.

The children's rights defenders collected testimony from 33 minors, including a child identified merely as "Ezzat H.," who described a "soldier wearing black sunglasses [who] came into the room where I was held and pointed his rifle at me. The rifle barrel was a few centimeters from my face. I was so terrified that I started to shiver. He made fun of me and said: 'Shivering? Tell me where the [father's hidden] pistol is before I shoot you.'" According to the report, Ezzat was 10 years old at the time. TIME asked the IDF to comment on the specific incidents mentioned in the report, but a spokesman said that would be impossible without knowing the names of the soldiers allegedly involved.

Often, children suffer lasting traumas from jail. Says Saleh Nazzal of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs: "When soldiers burst into a house and drag away a child, he loses his feeling of being protected by his family. He comes back from prison alienated from his family, his friends. They don't like going back to school or even leaving the house. They start wetting their beds." Says Mona Zaghrout, a YMCA counselor who helps kids returning from prison: "They come out of prison thinking and acting like they are men. Their childhood is gone." And they often turn to another father figure - the armed militant groups fighting the Israeli occupation.

According to the Israeli human-rights group Breaking the Silence, a few Israeli soldiers are alarmed by their own troops' behavior. The group cites the testimony of two officers who complained before a military court that during an operation last March in Hares village, soldiers herded 150 male villagers, some as young as 14, into a schoolyard in the middle of the night, where they were kept bound, blindfolded and beaten over the course of more than 12 hours.

A U.N. Committee Against Torture, which met on May 15 in Geneva, expressed its "concern" over Israel's alleged abuses of Palestinian child prisoners. The IDF denies any ill treatment of children detainees and insists that all claims are thoroughly investigated and that the number of complaints has dropped. But Khalid Quzman, a defense lawyer at the Israeli military courts, says, "We don't complain anymore because it's a waste of time." More than 600 complaints of torture and ill treatment were filed between 2001 and 2008, he says, "and not a single criminal investigation was ever carried out."

Inculcating respect for an occupying force is, of course, a difficult task under any circumstances. In the case of the Palestinians, history and society have made hatred for Israel almost an instinct. Still, there was shock in June among Palestinians when members of a family were accused of hanging a boy for suspected collaboration with Israeli forces.

Israel's treatment of Palestinian children and teens as combatants perpetuates the cycle of hatred. After a spell in an Israeli jail, it's hard for a young Palestinian to stay uninvolved. Walid says he never cared much for anything aside from his school friends and family before his incarceration. Now he bears a radioactive hatred towards Israelis. "The soldiers' curses and insults, I'll carry them to my grave," he says. by Tim McGirk, Jerusalem, June 30, 2009, with reporting by Jamil / Hebron and Yonit Farago / Jerusalem

See pictures of Israeli soldiers sweeping into Gaza
See pictures of life under Hamas in Gaza

See pictures of 60 years of Israel
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Here's another article, this one by DCI (Defence for Children International), which shows how Israel uses the "crime" of rock-throwing, and confessions obtained under duress, to inflict terror on Palestinian children:

[RAMALLAH, 11 June 2009] – Today, DCI-Palestine is releasing a report which documents the widespread ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army and police forcePalestinian Child Prisoners: The systematic and institutionalised ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.

The release of the report comes just days after an article was published in The Independent newspaper reporting the testimonies of two Israeli soldiers which detail the deliberate abuse of Palestinian children. One soldier is reported as saying that in an incident that occurred in a Palestinian village in March, he saw a lot of soldiers "just knee (Palestinians) because it's boring, because you stand there for 10 hours, you’re not doing anything, so they beat people up.

The report published today contains the testimonies of 33 children, one as young as 10 years old, who bear witness to the abuse they received at the hands of soldiers from the moment of arrest through to an often violent interrogation.

Most of these children were arrested from villages near the Wall and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. There is evidence that many children are painfully shackled for hours on end, kicked, beaten and threatened, some with death, until they provide confessions, some written in Hebrew, a language they do not speak or understand.

A soldier [...] pointed his rifle at me. The rifle barrel was a few centimetres away from my face. I was so terrified that I started to shiver. He made fun of me and said: ‘Shivering? Tell me where the pistol is before I shoot you.'                                                                                                  
                                   (Ezzat, 10 years old)

Disturbingly, the report finds that these illegally obtained confessions are routinely used as evidence in the military courts to convict around 700 Palestinian children every year. And the most common charge against these children is for throwing stones. Once sentenced, the children who gave these testimonies were mostly imprisoned inside Israel in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention where they receive few family visits, and little or no education.

The report concludes that this widespread and systematic abuse is occurring within a general culture of impunity where in 600 complaints made against Israeli Security Agency interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture, not a single criminal investigation was ever conducted.

The report also contains recent recommendations made by the UN Committee Against Torture which expressed ‘deep concern’ at reports of the abuse of Palestinian children when it reviewed Israel’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture in May 2009.

The report is now available on-line in PDF format: Palestinian Child Prisoners
See video

How do things work, exactly? Here's another article which cites book, chapter and verse, then goes on to explain how the system works:

Israeli Military Order 132 defines a Palestinian child as a person under the age of 16 and those children over the age of 16 are sentenced as adults and imprisoned with adults. Palestinian children are subjected to the same arrest, interrogation, trial and imprisonment procedures as adults, by the Israeli State. Palestinian children, when under the arrest of Israeli soldiers, are not advised of their rights, are not given immediate access to a lawyer or contact with a parent, guardian, other adult relative or an independent support person. Palestinian children are deprived the right to a family visit while held in a detention center for interrogation, which can last several weeks but even after the conclusion of interrogation, a Palestinian child may remain in a detention center for an indefinite period where family visits are not allowed. Palestinian children can be deprived a visit from a lawyer while under interrogation for security reasons and under Israeli military law, this can last up to 90 days. In some circumstances, a Palestinian child may only meet his lawyer for the first time at the first court appearance in the Military Court. Most Palestinian children are detained from the moment of their arrest until the end of legal proceedings. They are usually arrested in their homes in the middle of the night by armed Israeli soldiers and are rarely granted bail by the Military Court. Palestinian children are interrogated in detention centers and in many circumstances are assaulted, beaten and tortured during the interrogation process. Torture methods include psychological threats of harm to or imprisonment of family members. The Military Court (both the judiciary and the prosecution) relies heavily on the confession of a Palestinian child. In this regard, there are no rules of evidence in the Military Court. A confession is obtained by coercion during the interrogation process. A confession is the main piece of information or “evidence” used against a Palestinian child in the Military Court. A confession is in effect, the prosecutor’s case and can also be used to implicate other Palestinian child prisoners both in Court proceedings and in interrogation. The confession, regardless of how it has been obtained, forms the bases of the indictment against the child. It is what the child has to respond to in entering a guilty or not guilty plea before the Military Court. There are no civilian, forensic or military personnel witness statements, whether oral or written, presented to the Military Court or a Palestinian child’s Defense lawyer before this plea is entered. In effect, this shifts the burden of proof on the Defense making it extremely difficult to challenge a confession. All Palestinian children brought before the Israeli military court are sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Israel uses imprisonment as a measure of first resort for Palestinian children; there are very few cases of children who receive alternative sentences. During their imprisonment, Palestinian children are exposed to varying forms of punishment for minor offenses including being placed in solitary confinement, deprivation from family visits, financial penalties withdrawn from their prison accounts, and ongoing restrictions to going outdoors. Palestinian child prisoners also do not have the same rights as Israeli child prisoners, for example they do not have the right to make telephone calls. Defence for Children International Palestine views the military system imposed on Palestinian society by Israel as a discriminatory system that violates core principals of human rights. Military Orders and Military Order enforcement officials are tools used by the executive authority of the Israeli government in its occupation of the Palestinian territories, to oppress and suppress Palestinian children, and to overall undermine their right to life, survival and development.

 We once had similar problems in the Deep South. A fine young black man once told me a story about his father, who grew up in Mississippi. When his father was a little boy, he was instructed to call little white boys "sir." I find this deeply offensive. Little boys should be equals. But the problems young Palestinian boys face run much deeper. They can be egged into throwing rocks by much older Jewish boys, or by the Israeli military, and then they and their families can suffer crushing retaliation. It is a dangerous thing, indeed, to be born non-Jewish in Israel or the occupied territories. It would be like being born black in KKK territory, or being born Jewish in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, Israel is the antithesis of the United States, and yet somehow we have followed Israel's lead, rather than Israel following ours. Why? Because our politicians want votes and campaign contributions, and because “we the people” have stupidly and apathetically believed what we have been told to believe. I condemn myself, because I would still believe the unbelievable if my Jewish friends hadn't become so evasive, defensive and hostile when I questioned the policies and actions of Israel.

These are just five examples. I could go on and on. People now tell me that I'm being "unfair" to Israel, and one-sided. I disagree. I don't deny that Palestinians engage in acts of violence. Obviously some Palestinians engage in acts of extreme violence. I abhor physical violence, have never started a fight, and have walked away from fights whenever possible. But I have the ability to think. And thinking about these palpable injustices makes certain things clear to me:

(1) The evidence of history is clear: injustice always leads to violence. The United States suffered a catastrophic Civil War and 200 years of racial violence (most of it perpetrated on blacks by whites) until we finally made strides toward becoming a true democracy based on equal rights and justice for all citizens, regardless of race, creed or sex. For most of our history we were an oligarchy of white males masquerading as a democracy. In recent years we have improved in many areas, and yet we have failed to establish real equality for certain minorities, such as non-heterosexuals. We have never been the paragon of democracy we claim to be, even within our own borders, and our record abroad speaks for itself. Isn't it obvious that we vastly prefer the "equal rights" of Americans and Jews to those of Palestinians and citizens of Muslim nations? Isn't this clear evidence of racism and religious intolerance? We didn't torture German prisoners of war, despite the multitudinous atrocities of the Nazis, but we have tortured Muslims. Isn't this also clear evidence of racism and religious intolerance? Hasn't our racism and religious intolerance abroad resulted in ever-escalating violence, on our part, as we have attempted to "shock and awe" Muslims into submission? When will we act in accordance with the American Creed abroad? If we don't want to fight one fruitless, unwinnable war after another, we need to abandon injustice and establish peace through justice.

(2) The only non-violent path to peace is through justice. If this is not self-evident, please read Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela's testimony by clicking on this link. To make a long story short, after fifty years of using non-violent methods with little or no success, Mandela's group, the African National Congress, elected to use violent methods (starting with sabotage, in the hope that deaths could be avoided), because non-violent methods clearly do not work when the "superior" class rigs the laws and courts against the "inferior" class. Non-violent methods only worked for Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. because British and American courts began to find the "superior" class guilty of crimes, rather than their victims. Anyone who comes to understand this simple truth will see the real problem in Israel/Palestine today. The laws and courts are rigged against the Palestinians. Therefore, they have no recourse except violence. If Israel establishes equal rights, fair laws and fair courts for Jews and non-Jews alike, then peace through justice becomes possible, and people on both sides who break fair laws can be prosecuted, convicted and jailed. But it is not a crime to break an illegal law. If it was, the American Revolution would have been criminal and treasonous, and the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising would be criminals rather than heroes. It is important to note that Mandela was considered a “terrorist” by the United States and South Africa. Why? Because in our hypocrisy Americans laud George Washington, while conveniently labeling the freedom fighters of other nations “terrorists.” Washington chose to kill people of his own race and creed, and we laud him to the skies. Why did we label Mandela a “terrorist”? Because we hypocritically reserve rights for ourselves which we deny to people far more oppressed than white Americans ever were. If Americans were to study Mandela’s case, and compare his case to the case of the Palestinians we call “terrorists” today, they will be in for a real shock. If Washington and Jefferson were correct that it was their right and duty to oppose the tyranny of anyone who denied them their freedom and human rights, then surely the Palestinians have every right to resist every attempt of Israel to deny them freedom and justice. This is why establishing justice is so important, for both sides. The only non-violent path to peace is through justice. Israel has complete military dominance over the Palestinians, just as the British once had complete military dominance over Americans. If the British had unconditionally granted Americans equal rights and justice, there would have been no need for the American Revolutionary War. Now Israel is in the position of the imperial British monarchy.

(3) Something essential changed in 1776. Before 1776, and the American Declaration of Independence, "inferior" classes of people largely believed or accepted that they were inferior, and that it was their lot to be ruled by "superior" classes of people. But since 1776, and especially since the advent of radio, television, the Internet, Google, email, cell phones and Twitter, all the people of the earth now believe that they, too, are fully equal to all other human beings. Therefore, the Palestinians will never accept the idea that they are inferior to the Jews. Nor should they. The government of Israel has adopted tactics that worked once, in the distant, receding past. Yes, white men were once able to subdue Native Americans and Australian Aborigines. But they were not in the right, and this was before imperialism gasped its last dying breath. The Indians and Aborigines were moved far away from their white usurpers, where no one had to see and contemplate their suffering. But this is not the case in Israel/Palestine today. All the world sees the suffering of the Palestinians. Now, when a plague strikes Gaza and multitudes of innocents die, all the world will see the magnitude of this new Holocaust, the Nakba. Then the floodgates of anger against Israel and the United States will open. This is inevitable. And so it really doesn't matter whether Jews and Americans agree with me. What matters is that Jews and Americans cannot afford to allow Gazans to die in large numbers, or for other Palestinians to continue to suffer from the injustices inflicted on them by Israel and the United States. The suffering and deaths of the Palestinians cannot be hidden or ignored. Israel has miscalculated, because its leaders plan to slowly nibble away at the West Bank, dividing and conquering the Palestinians. But they have turned their backs on Gaza, written off the Gazans, and forgotten that human immune systems can only handle so much malnutrition, fear, stress and despair, before they implode. But this impending crisis now gives us the opportunity to achieve peace through justice, if we can persuade highly intelligent, highly literate Jews to see Israel's folly and change course, while there is still time.

Like Jefferson's truths, I believe these truths are self-evident. It seems "logical" to say that Israel has the right to "defend" its security and interests. But this is only true if Israel's laws and courts are just. The "laws" of American slaveowners were clearly unjust. It was no crime for slaves to break them. The "laws" of the Nazis were clearly unjust. It was no crime for the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to break them. Those Jews were not criminals, but heroes. But then it is only logical to say that the Palestinians who resist the racist and therefore illegal "laws" of Israel are also heroes and freedom fighters. Almost no one wants to hear this. It is far more convenient to call the Palestinians "terrorists." Jews and Americans point out the rockets Palestinians fire at Israelis. Yes, but what does the United States do, when our rights and security are imperiled? We unleash torrents of missiles and bombs, killing far more civilians in a few days than the Palestinians have killed in years of resistance. Israel has killed far more Palestinian women and children than vice versa. And Israel conducts a daily campaign of unrelenting, systematic terrorism against millions of Palestinians, while Hamas has only around 3,000 members (from what I have read, which is admittedly hearsay). If the United States were to emulate Israel, the next time members of a Mexican drug cartel killed Americans, we would build a wall around Mexico City, herd millions of innocent women and children inside, slam the gates shut, and deny Mexican children the right to have crayons and coloring books. Then of course some Mexican men would take pot shots at the guards who had deprived their children of liberty. We would then use this “terrorism” as an excuse to test new advanced weapon systems against the prisoners of Mexico City. Soon little girls would have the flesh bubbling from their bodies due to white phosphorous bombs, while CIA agents with joysticks guided drones overhead looking for "suitable" targets. Yes, such things are happening in Israel. No, the United States doesn't treat its neighbors as badly as Israel treats the Palestinians. But in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq we are coming damn close. CIA agents with joysticks are using drones to attack "suitable" targets in Pakistan. But they are killing far more civilians than "bad guys." But why are we fighting wars on Muslim soil in the first place? Primarily for two reasons: (1) our foolish support of the injustices of Israel, which allow Israeli Jews to obtain "free" land and water (which is incredibly expensive land and water for Palestinians, Americans and the rest of the world), and (2) our relentless attempts to make other nations favor our national interests over their own, particularly when oil is involved (but we would have saved trillions of dollars by simply paying the going price for oil, butting out of the affairs of other nations, and using the money we saved on fruitless wars to develop renewable sources of energy).

The hypocrisy of Israel and the United States is abysmal. No one can take us seriously, when we talk about "democracy" and "human rights." If we want to be taken seriously, we must first abandon hypocrisy and stand for what we say we believe in: equal rights and justice. We have done better and better at home. We have done reasonably well when dealing with our closest neighbors, and nations with cultures similar to our own. But in the Middle East we have been our own worst enemies. If we want peace with Muslim nations, we need to do two simple things: (1) stop supporting Israel's injustices, and stand for equal rights, fair laws and fair courts for Jews and Palestinians alike, and (2) get our troops off Muslim soil, for good, and accept that other nations have every right to prefer their national interests to ours. It will be far less expensive to pay the going rate for oil, than to drive it up while spending trillions of dollars on unnecessary, fruitless, unwinnable war.

Nearly everything I had been told to believe about Israel and the Palestinians was upside down, inside out. The situation of the Palestinians is far more dire than that of the American Founding Fathers. Washington and Jefferson lived in mansions, and yet they claimed the right to fight to the death, rather than submit to the tyranny of an imperial British monarchy. If they had the right to resist, and kill British troops of the same race and creed, does it make any sense whatsoever to deny the Palestinians the right to resist, and use force if necessary?

No, that would be hypocritical. We Americans find ourselves in the unfortunate position of violating our own principles, and thus playing the hypocrite before the eyes of an unbelieving world. No wonder no one pays any attention to our words, or example, these days. But there is a solution: Israel must unconditionally give the Palestinians their self-evident human rights, and access to fair laws and fair courts. Then those fair courts can settle disputes the way they're settled here in the United States: legally. The courts Israel establishes must be able to set legal precedents, and they should be subject to peer review by judges appointed by the UN. But unfortunately both Israel and the United States seem to be paralyzed. Too many American politicians depend on pro-Israel votes and campaign contributions. And so we need to make an "end run" around them. We can do this by having the UN adopt a new resolution: one the US can't veto (as the US has vetoed so many UN resolutions that would have brought the Palestinians relief in the past). This resolution should be based on the American Creed of equal rights and justice for everyone.

And so here is the UN resolution I propose. This is my "simple plan for peace in the Middle East": Israel must unconditionally grant Jews and non-Jews equal human rights, and access to the same fair laws and fair courts, with the courts being able to set legal precedents while being subject to peer review by judges appointed by the UN.

If such a UN resolution is put up for a vote, what would happen?

If the US doesn't veto the resolution, and if Israel complies, then Palestinians and Jews alike will be able to achieve peace through justice. Atrocities against Palestinians will have to cease immediately, as will atrocities against Jews. The Gazans can be saved from a devastating plague. Disputes can be settled in courts, without violence. If people on either side break the law, they can be tried, convicted and jailed. Most of the violent elements on both sides will end up in jail, and everyone willing to abide by the law can live in increasing peace. Will the process be perfect? Of course not. But what happened in the US after the civil rights movement will eventually happen in Israel/Palestine. People who don't want go to jail will obey the law, and find they can co-exist. People intent on violence will increasingly constitute the minority, or they can go to jail.

If the US vetoes the resolution, the hypocrisy of the US will be clearly revealed on the world stage, but I don't think the US can veto a resolution based on the American Creed.

If the US doesn't veto the resolution, and Israel does not comply, the refusal of Israel to deny Palestinians equal rights and justice will be clearly revealed on the world stage, and Israel will have demonstrated that it is not a democracy. Then the US and UN can deal with the real problem: honestly, without hypocrisy. Israel is a modernized nation which depends on imports, exports, tourism and people being able to "globetrot" for political, economic, business, educational and scientific purposes. Sanctions against Israel would be far more persuasive than sanctions against less advanced nations. What Israel needs, more than any other nation, is to establish peace through justice, because Israel is surrounded by a billion Muslims. What the Jews need, more than any other people, is the American Creed of unconditional equal rights and justice for all people. Even if the Israeli Jews protest bitterly, in the long run they will benefit greatly by establishing true democracy and true justice. If it takes the concerted effort of the world and sanctions to bring Israel to its senses, the sooner we start, the better for everyone.

And just think: if peace through justice is established in Israel/Palestine, then no one anywhere in the world will ever be able to say that peace through justice is not possible. In recent days three paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland finally admitted that their weapons are no longer needed and began the process of decommissioning them: the Red Hand Commando, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force. The IRA had decommissioned its weapons four years prior. But what about years of senseless violence which left thousands of people dead and far more wounded and traumatized? There is not an iota of difference between the DNA of Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants. There is hardly an iota of difference between the DNA of Jews and Arabs. Most Jews and most Arabs are Semites. But really all human DNA is virtually identical. We really are equal, after all. Our differences are primarily cultural: the way we perceive and think about ourselves. The United States has proven that people of widely divergent cultures can live together in peace. I live in the South (Tennessee) in a multi-cultural neighborhood. Today we have white children and black children running around in skimpy bathing suits, while Pakistani and Egyptian women walk around wrapped from head to foot in long robes. No one bats an eye. Why do we have increasingly better race relations in the United States, even in the Deep South, once the bastion of slavery and racial intolerance? Primarily because fair laws and fair courts made it too expensive to practice racism. How many white Americans actually hated minorities enough to surrender their freedom? In reality, not very many. Even the worst racists value their freedom. As long as unjust laws and unjust courts allowed white racists virtually free rein, many of them did abuse minorities. But once fair laws and fair courts were established, it became too expensive for white racists to abuse minorities. Racism was largely defused, and the race bomb we all feared never blew up in our faces.

Once racism was largely defused by fair laws and fair courts, with every generation racism has ameliorated. Why? Because younger people have been able to see that we really can live together in peace. I am very happy to be able to walk around my neighborhood, and smile at everyone without regard to race or creed, and feel that we are all welcome. Will this happen in Israel/Palestine, right away? No, not right away. But it will happen faster than most people believe. Just think of how bad things were here in the South, only a few decades ago. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, who dared dream that his audacious dream would ever become a reality? But now we have a multi-racial, multi-cultural president, Barack Obama. We also have Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Jesse Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Sidney Poitier, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, and thousands of lesser-known but highly successful black CEOs, business owners and scientists. The sky really is the limit.

But Americans have fallen short in believing and acting as if the citizens of other nations have rights equal to ours. We have particularly fallen short in regard to Muslims and Arabs, and most particularly in regard to Palestinians. If we value the lives and futures of our own children and grandchildren, we must correct this: now, today. The first step is the new UN resolution that I mentioned above. With this simple UN resolution we can avert disaster for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, agnostics, atheists . . . for everyone. How? Simply by adhering to the creed that all human beings are equal, and living up to it: at home and abroad.

Mike Burch
Independence Day
July 4, 2009

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