George Bush could not resist the opportunity of giving Sharon another green light. He focused his Saturday radio chat on a character assassination of Arafat. This is taken by the Israelis as a pat on the back for their latest wave of mass murder in the towns and villages of the West Bank, all carefully shielded from the eyes of the world by a media blackout. Sharon loves nothing more than an American pass to work in the dark. Considering the obscenities he has been willing to perform in front of live cameras, one can only dread what he is capable of away from the lights.
In spite of the attacks against journalists trying to cover the latest wave of Israeli repression, those who do not avert their eyes can find plenty of detailed information on the Internet (whatreallyhappened.com or PalestineChronicle.com). Or for that matter, even in The Washington Post. The post published a story by Keith B. Richburg on the latest Israeli human rights violations documented by B'Tselem, an Israeli group that monitors Israeli goon squads. "B'Tselem charged today that Israel has tortured Palestinians who have been detained for interrogation during the current military offensive. The group said in a statement that the interrogation methods included breaking the toes of prisoners." (Washington Post, April 6, 2002.) Maybe this is wild speculation, but I am assuming the White House still pays for a subscription to America's semiofficial paper. And I am assuming that Bush and his administration are fully aware of these reports.
In Thursday's speech the president urged Israelis to "show a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people." It was not clear from the speech whether the president's position extended to Palestinian toes and he has chosen not to comment on the matter. The president also called for "compassionate" Israeli checkpoints not the actual removal of these tools of humiliation that represent everything vile about the occupation.
In defaming Arafat, the president was giving additional license to Sharon's assassins. The International Committee of the Red Cross has publicly rebuked the Israelis for threatening staff members at gunpoint and damaging their vehicles. Doctors and nurses have been assaulted. Wounded civilians have been left to bleed to death while caretakers are prevented from rescue workers. The man who rings the bell at the Church of the Nativity was murdered in cold blood. Reporters are being assaulted. A young Palestinian-American mother was murdered with her child in her arms. Mosques, churches, schools and hospitals have not been spared. Public utilities, including electrical plants and precious water supplies have been deliberately vandalized. Hundreds of innocent Palestinians have been killed and thousands subjected to arbitrary detention. Sharon has publicly snubbed Bush and handed him a hanky to wipe the spit off his face. And how does Bush respond? By giving another green light to Sharon to break toes and kill and maim and inflict major damage to the homes and community properties of the Palestinians. So, either Bush isn't paying attention to these grisly details or his staff is lying to him or he has canceled his subscription to the Washington Post or he is content to provide cover for Sharon's goons to break toes. If all he can do is condemn the Palestinian victims and their leadership, than he is failing to provide American leadership. He needs to stop his policy of 'wink wink, nod nod, snap toes, snap toes, know what I mean, know what I really mean'. If he needs a spine transplant, the Palestinian people, impoverished as they are, will be more than glad to provide him with a free state-of-the art operation.
Bush is covering up his blunder in going to bed with Sharon by assailing the character of Arafat. The suicide bombs are a reaction to draconian repression. They are inexcusable and self-damaging reactions, especially after 911. But they are seen by the perpetrators as their only means of deterrence against the brute might of the Israeli army. This latest Sharon escapade was planned and approved prior to the Passover atrocity. So, how can it be a consequence of the assault? It takes juvenile brinkmanship to believe that Arafat orders these assaults. Having been systematically denuded by Sharon of all his instruments of governance, he is in no position to even stop them. Palestinian rage is because of one undeniable reality, the grim prospect under an Israeli occupation that has turned into a midevil siege of every Palestinian town, village and hamlet. For the Palestinians, there is not a minute of security. Israeli goons can barge into their lives at will. They kill, they plunder, they vandalize and they steal. This operation is just an intensification of Israel's collective punishment policies. The Palestinian 'suicidal' response stems from anger at continued lawless agression and brutal repression. It's the occupation, stupid.
This much is clear, Bush avoids clarity and evades responsibility. Palestinian Americans who have been caught up in the Israeli carnage should band together and personally sue the President for criminal assault. Enough is enough, Mr. Bush. Until American politicians, at the highest level of government, start paying a monetary and political price for their lethal affairs with deranged war criminals like Sharon, they will not desist from giving green lights to Israeli thugs.
It gives me no comfort to step on Bush's toes. But he needs to pay attention to Palestinian toes and stop kissing Sharon's toes. Bush needs to put away his political calculator, stop looking at the polls, give the Yiddish supremacist fanatics at CNN and the New York Times the finger and get on with formulating a foreign policy as decent as the American people. A final bit of advice, If he is so comfortable with giving green lights to serial mass murderers like Sharon, he should be denied the luxury of being a character witness. The president is either for breaking toes or against breaking toes. There is no neutral grounds on these matters. Bush can speak up and be heard on the question of torture or we can assume that his campaign to 'win hearts and minds' did not extend to Palestinian toes.