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October 5, 2004

Gaza Through the Looking Glass


by Ramzy Baroud

One can only imagine the utter outrage that would engulf world leaders and the media if a series of Palestinian bombings rocked an Israeli town and in less than four days killed 60 people and wounded hundreds, mostly innocent civilians.

Not even the most open-minded of media pundits would dare justify the crime; not even the most lurid of government officials could rationalize the orgy of flesh and blood made of mangled bodies, some so beyond repair that you wish them death for their own sake.

How repulsive if Fox News decided to inundate its viewers with self-congratulating "terrorism experts" describing the "surgical procedure" by the Palestinian bombers, whose intent was merely to target a few unidentified Israeli army officers accused of threatening the lives of Palestinian civilians.

Picture the horror on the dusty faces as firefighters amass in a small Tel Aviv street to quell an inferno of homes, shops and roofless buses while medics, too busy to tend to the blown-up bodies, frantically hope to revive the surviving few.

Who would dare step up in a moment like this and attempt to contextualize the massacre? "Palestinians were retaliating for Israeli air strikes that killed two Hamas militants a day earlier."

And while Israelis fight their tears and mounting fury, fixing their eyes to a very bloody spectacle on their TV screens, they learn that the White House refuses to condemn the atrocity. Outrageous, isn't it? In turn, a State Department spokesperson agrees with the Hamas fighters' basic premise, but urges them to "take every measure to ensure that only proportional force is used to counter the threat that it faces."

To counter the inhumanity and callousness of America's officials, they switch to another channel, where UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's statement on the massacre is read. Yet Annan merely asks the bombers, who remain intent on blowing up more Israelis, to do all they can to avoid civilian casualties, reminding them of the risks their act may have on the "peace process."

Even Israel's traditional friends in the West seem not to care. Instead, their media sound overly sympathetic to Hamas' reasoning, lending air time to its officials as they spread propaganda and disseminate further warnings to hapless Israelis: "If you don't repent, there is more where this came from."

In fact, Hamas inconsiderately chooses to name its Tel Aviv massacre "Days of Penitence." Western media parrot the codename of Hamas' "operation" with unmistakable approval.

And when two Israelis infiltrate the border into Gaza, in a shabby operation to distract Hamas' attention from the unfolding massacre, it ends up being a golden opportunity for media allies in the United States to justify Hamas' carnage in retrospect: "This is exactly the kind of Israeli threat that Hamas is trying to counter," some "state-terrorism expert" boasts in a self-vindicating tone.

To ensure that average Americans do not question why they are blowing up Israelis, Palestinians stretch their apologists and lobbyists throughout Washington, D.C., heaping yet more pressure on U.S. government officials who eagerly comply. In fact, they compel the president himself to acknowledge Hamas' "right to defend itself."

Instead of immediately seeking to halt the Hamas aggression, the Palestinian Authority decides to take advantage of the mayhem, approving a plan during one of its cabinet meetings to push Gaza's border nine miles deep into Israel to create a buffer zone.

And what if these Hamas bombers and hundreds like them are never tried for war crimes and simply carry on with their lives and jobs without being held accountable, without being reprimanded, even verbally? What if they are now qualified to receive medals of honor for their "heroic" conduct in Tel Aviv?

None of this, of course, has occurred. However, its exact antithesis has. In a small refugee camp called Jabaliya, where 106,000 people live the most impoverished life in a crowded slum, the mighty Israeli army unleashed one of its worst war crimes during the Palestinian uprising with the hope of expanding its border a few miles to the south, pushing Gaza's one million inhabitants into a virtual prison-ghetto, fenced and blocked on all fronts.

But just imagine if the picture were reversed. Would our humanity permit us to be equally outraged, to demand and expect justice? That is for you to worry about. I am a Palestinian; I grew up in the Gaza ghetto and need not reverse the picture to understand. Outrage is now part of my anatomy.


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  • Ramzy Baroud is editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle. His book The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle is now out in paperback.

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