Sympathy for Palestinians another victim of attacks

September 16, 2001|By Gregory Kane

THIS WAS supposed to be where I said the Palestinians have a legitimate gripe against the state of Israel, that they've been wronged and have some justice coming their way.

That's what I was set to write until Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, about 9 a.m. That's when I awoke, turned on the television, and saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center burning. That was before I saw them collapse and thought about all the times I'd been in the mall on the bottom level of the WTC, and I immediately realized what the cost in lives would be.

But the terrorists who crashed jets into the WTC towers and the Pentagon changed all that. With one fell swoop, they've set back the Palestinian cause at least 50 years. Who in America is going to listen to, much less care about, any just claims the Palestinians have?

News reports showed some Palestinians celebrating on the West Bank, cheering the news that thousands of Americans had been killed. Can they be that stupid, I wondered? Didn't they know that this hurts, not helps, their cause? Didn't they realize that with the snap of our fingers, if we wished, we could reduce them and their land to one big spot that glows in the dark?

The United Nations World Conference Against Racism ended just before the terrorist attacks. The United States and its press waxed righteous about attempts by Arabs and their supporters to brand Zionism as racism and a "form" of apartheid. Lost in all that moral superiority was the work of one Amira Hass that appeared in the Sept. 2 New York Times. Hass is an Israeli Jew and the Palestinian territories' correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz.

"From my living room window in Ramallah, a Palestinian city," Hass began her story, "I see the lights of the Israeli settlement Pesagot on the opposite mountain. Across the eastern road of my neighborhood, there is an Israeli military base, protecting another settlement. Had I wanted, as an Israeli Jew, born in West Jerusalem, I could have moved at any moment to any of these settlements. My Palestinian next-door neighbors in Ramallah, whose grandparents were born in what is now Israel, could not even think of moving to, say, Tel Aviv."

Hass goes on to describe how Palestinians in the territories pay taxes to Israel's government but have no vote, while Jewish settlers in the occupied territories can vote. She said Palestinians in the territories are forbidden from living in an Israeli city or settlement.

"Israelis and Palestinians are in a single geographic state controlled by one government," wrote Hass, "but they live under two separate and unequal systems of rights and laws."

Before Sept. 11, fair-minded Americans might have read Hass' piece and then challenged both their government and their media. OK, they might have said. So Zionism isn't racism or apartheid. But if what Hass writes is true, exactly what is it? Because at the very least it doesn't sound fair.

Of course, that's what fair-minded Americans might have said before Sept. 11. What they're saying now is that America needs to root out terrorism, bomb those countries that provide a haven for terrorists and bring our full military might to bear on anyone responsible for the heinous murders at the WTC and the Pentagon. For a long time, very few words will appear in American print or broadcast media about the plight of the Palestinians, no matter how unfair it gets for them.

Palestinians can thank those terrorists who purported to act on their behalf for this state of affairs. O-Slimey bin Laden, with his millions, could have bought ad space in every major American newspaper and magazine, airtime on every network, and told Americans, as Hass did, the same thing about the conditions Palestinians live under. Instead, in the past, he's funded terrorist actions that gain the Palestinians no new friends but plenty of enemies. Whether he's responsible for the acts of Sept. 11 remains to be seen.

Whoever's responsible - be it bin Laden, Hussein, Kadafi or some terrorist group - clearly didn't have Palestinian interests in mind. The attack on the WTC and the Pentagon certainly won't make anyone in the Israeli government change the policies that prevail in the occupied territories. The lives of Palestinians will improve not one iota. That's because the terrorists don't really have the interests of the Palestinians at heart.

"They don't hate America because of Israel," former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of terrorists in a television interview last week. "They hate Israel because of America. They see you [America] as the Great Satan. We're the Little Satan."

Right now, those of us here in the Great Satan aren't thinking about the problems of Palestinians. We're thinking about the thousands of Americans killed in the attacks. We're thinking about how we're going to look across the Hudson River from the New Jersey side at the Manhattan skyline and not see those familiar twin towers there. And then we're going to think back to a saying that's pretty common here in the Great Satan.

Payback is a bitch.

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