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Observer’s view of Mideast conflict

Alex Theberge
Monday April 15, 2002

To the Editor: 


I have been observing the incidents in the Middle East develop and escalate with horror and disbelief over the last year. The continued atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict seem to me a testament to the innate humane capacity for self-destructiveness. But, at the end of the day, one clear and blazing fact sears through the murky nuances of the conflict and, sharpens the sting of each escalating retaliation; the fighting is occurring between one of the wealthiest and militarily powerful nations in the world and a small guerrilla movement conceived in the slums and refugee camps of an impoverished, occupied, and alienated people. 

The key word here is nation. A sovereign nation is on one side of the conflict, and a stateless group of people is on the other side. It disturbs and saddens me to hear of guerrilla militants blowing up innocent civilians in Jerusalem cafés, much as it does to hear of the horrific car-bombings in downtown Bogotá. But it outrages me to hear of a state government shooting at rock-throwing civilians, willfully and recklessly demolishing the houses of its people and assassinating militants without trial.  

It seems that no laws apply to or can protect the Palestinians under Israeli control. Ambulances are impeded from delivering service, water and electricity are cutoff for hundreds of thousands, journalists are shot and killed whole apartment complexes are occupied and purposefully trashed. Thousands of civilians, from teenage boys to old men, are stripped from their homes, rounded up and interrogated en masse . Accused terrorists and conspirators are tortured and confined without hearings or lawyers. The IDF forces operate, it seems, with both leeway and impunity in a residential civilian setting, a history-proven recipe for human rights atrocities. 

A nation’s government, especially in a self-proclaimed democracy, must be held to a higher standard of human and civil rights that that of an informally organized guerrilla movement. We cannot squeeze the leaders of Hamaz with diplomatic and economic pressure any more that we can the leaders of the Tupac Amaru, but we can and must pressure the Israeli government to change its policies, even if it means denying aid, boycotting Israeli products, and implementing economic sanctions. 


Alex Theberge