to Travel Restrictions
by Ramzy Baroud
May 22, 2003
I strongly resent those who speak of peace in the Middle East by urging Palestinians to end terrorism and call on Israel to “ease travel restrictions”.
Even Terje Roed-Larsen, the senior United Nations envoy to the region often falls into this trap.
Following a suicide bombing in northern Israel, where four Israelis were reportedly killed, Roed-Larsen described suicide bombings, as "senseless acts that are unjustified on any moral or political grounds."
Sure, no one expected the UN Special Coordinator to distance himself from the line of thinking that sees such acts as if they were born in a vacuum, without any relations whatsoever to the desperate, often bloody reality under which Palestinians are forced to live. But why shouldn’t we expect Roed-Larsen, or any other, to speak out with the same clarity against the state-sponsored Israeli terrorism?
Once finished outlining his position on the deadly bombings in Israel, Roed-Larsen, ‘turned the heat’ on Israel, but just a little. He said that Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints were "the single largest impediment to the Palestinian economy."
To those who most often receive only half of the news from the Middle East, Israel’s checkpoints must make good sense. What else can the violated state of Israel do in the face of these heinous crimes but to restrict the movement of Palestinians with the hope that such limitations on travel reduce the frequency of the bombers’ penetration of the hapless Jewish state?
Since the beginning of May, 2003 until the bombing in northern Israel on May 19, 47 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army, that’s over 10 times the number of Israeli victims in the Palestinian suicide bombing. Few of those Palestinians killed, as we were informed, attacked Israeli army or civilian targets, including my former neighbor in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, Mahmoud Annani. He was killed on May 08.
I hold no expectations on “experts” or “officials” to examine the enduring years suffered by Mahmoud, to study the reasons that led a promising young man to detonate himself, wounding four Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, while he was just stepping into manhood at the age of 21. But it pained me to see that those who felt no hesitation in condemning Mahmoud’s “senseless”, “heinous” and “abhorrent” crime, kept mute while scores of Palestinians were killed, including 8 children, in the first two weeks of May alone.
Kofi Annan, the UN’s chief, is a prime example of how officials around the world labor to undermine Palestinian suffering while emphasizing that of Israelis. The three months of March, April and May 2003 witnessed a killing extravaganza by the Israeli army, mostly focused in the Gaza Strip. March 07, was a day in which eight Palestinians, including a one year old baby-girl (Hanan al-Assar) were killed in Nuseirat refugee camp; March 31, four Palestinians were killed in the village of Beit Hanoun village; April 03, four Palestinians were killed in Rafah; April 08, seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza; April 09, five Palestinians were killed in the refugee camp of Jabalia; Apri1 19, three Palestinians were killed in Rafah; May 1, 13 Palestinians killed in a crowded neighborhood in Gaza City; May 14, three Palestinians killed in the Nuseirat refugee camp; May 15, five Palestinians killed in Gaza ..
During the period, extending from the beginning of March to May 19, 196 Palestinians were killed in the occupied territories, the great majority were civilians.
The pathetic reaction around the world to the killing of Palestinians shows how human life is measured in terms of politics, not by numbers or by the basic principal of the sanctity of human life.
But while many understand the scheme of the mainstream media, which is either ignoring Palestinian losses or packaging the news so carefully, to absolve Israel from any liability, a greater number fail to see where someone like Kofi Annan fits in to all of this.
Annan, whose credibility has dwindled to unprecedented levels, following the botched Jenin war crimes investigation and the Iraq war, utters hardly anything when Palestinians are killed. Cornered by the embarrassingly high number of casualties in the recent Gaza carnage, he expressed “deep concern” for the Middle East’s violence, and simply urged both sides to adhere to the Road Map as a way out. His words were generic and his blame included both sides. However, his touching sermons following the killing of Israelis, even illegal Jewish settlers, who are armed to the teeth, are often the bolded headlines of the United Nations news service.
But the most troubling of it all, is the method that these supposedly even-handed politicians chose to call on both sides to adhere to peace: Palestinians must end their terror campaign and Israelis must ease travel restrictions. So this is what the Middle East’s conflict boils down to: the removal of a few checkpoints?
I beg to differ. Israel is killing Palestinians, young and old on a daily basis; Israeli bulldozers have destroyed thousands of homes; the Israel army has been deliberately targeting mosques, churches, schools and civilian facilities, including the United Nations’ own food warehouses; thousands of Palestinian prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails with no courts, trials or due process; the policy of assassination is a routine Israeli army procedure, sanctioned by the High Court, the same High Court that allows for the torture of Palestinian prisoners; Palestinian land is being confiscated, villages swallowed up by the Israeli apartheid wall and thousands of Palestinians have lost their only source of income; thousands of Palestinians have been displaced and a whole generation of Palestinian children suffer from malnutrition and lack any sense of hope for a better future.
I am not calling on officials to reiterate the above oracle every time they wish to renew their call for peace, but I find it insulting to strongly condemn suicide bombings, while responding to state-sponsored Israeli terrorism by calling on Israel “show restraint” and “ease travel restrictions”.
Checkpoints are indeed provoking and frustrating, but Mahmoud Annani of my refugee camp didn’t choose to blow himself up near an Israeli military base in Gaza because he couldn’t stand the long wait in a taxicab near an Israeli army checkpoint. It’s unfair to watch Mahmoud being condemned, while the four wounded Israeli soldiers who pushed him to such a fate, receive medals of honor and loving wishes of a speedy recovery.
Many problems are indeed plaguing the Middle East, but lack of conscience is undoubtedly the worst.