Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A Human Shield Speaks Out

As you know, very little foolishness escapes my attention. Case in point, an interview on tiny Block Island with a middle-aged peace activist who just returned from human shield duty in Hebron.

In The Block Island Times Barbara MacDougall says she and her colleagues conducted “non-violent interventions” between Palestinians and Israelis. “It’s about a neutral third party moving into a volatile situation and diffusing the anger a bit,” she says.

The rest of her tale quickly refutes any claim to neutrality. She talks about the dreary lives of the friendly Palestinians under Israeli occupation. She says that without inserting herself between her Palestinian friends and the Israeli soldiers, the Palestinians “would have been shot.”

She says that the Israeli army has posted 1,300 soldiers in Hebron to protect “450 Jewish settlers” who, by the way, have built their settlements “on top of Arab markets.”

It’s interesting that she mentions these troublesome “Jewish settlers.” Did they arrive last week? Maybe they’ve been here for a year or more? Actually, many of the “settlers” in Hebron arrived in 1661 which happens to be the same year settlers arrived on Block Island. Why, that would make Ms. MacDougall a “settlor.”

MacDougall means well. But she’s being used. It’s easy to say that both sides are equally to blame for the violence in Israel, but that’s just morally lazy.

Israel is a democracy based on western values of equality, freedom, and tolerance. Their aim is to peacefully coexist with their Arab neighbors.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, do not choose their leaders and the goal of the Palestine National Charter is the elimination of Israel through violence. Arab extremists do not recognize the equality of men and women, freedom of religious belief, or tolerance of non-believers. Indeed, Palestinian schoolchildren are indoctrinated to hate their Israeli neighbors and Jews generally.

This is not the path to peaceful coexistence.

As a liberal tolerant society we are challenged by Islamic fascism. Do we dismiss the hatred and violence that infects the Arab world as some quirk of multiculturalism? Or do we make a judgment and say that western values are more reasonable, more just, and qualitatively superior to the medieval values of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade?

Ms. MacDougall acted bravely by serving as a human shield against the Israeli Defense Forces. Yet even MacDougall understands that the IDF would hold their fire if an innocent person where in the way. Does anyone believe Hamas would be deterred from murdering Israelis by the presence of Ms. MacDougall? Of course not. Indeed, for Hamas, murdering innocent civilians is the whole point.

The Palestinian Arabs deserve better schools, better opportunities and better leadership. They also deserve our sympathy.

But make no mistake. Not until the Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist and reject the use of murder for political means, will there be peace in Palestine.

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