Published April 2, 2002
Slave reparations an issue of longitudinal culpability
To the Daily:
What the staff of the Daily Campus wrote in Slave Reparations: Suit underscores hypocrisy (4/1/02) grossly misrepresents the issues involved.
Consider this sentence: "Farmer-Paellman is basing her claim against people living today, based on the culpability of others who have been dead for one and a quarter centuries." The opinion piece argues that, since the descendants of slave owners are not at fault, they should not be punished.
This is horribly misguided.
Profits were made on slavery. The correct question is: Should these profits be in the hands of African-Americans alive today or in the hands of company owners alive today? The opinion piece argues that the descendants of slave owners are not at fault for what happened many years ago. However, the descendants of slaves are also not at fault for what happened many years ago. This is the key: Any way of splitting these profits punishes someone. We must either punish the descendants of slaves or the descendants of their owners. Who should we punish?
An ideologically consistent conservative position would be: Given this choice, we should restore original property rights, and return these profits to the descendants of slaves, from whom this labor was stolen.
An ideologically inconsistent conservative position would be: Blindly side with the status quo, highlight fairness to the wealthy, and obscure fairness to others. The staff of the Daily Campus chose the second route.
Contextualizing murder does not legitimize murder
To the Daily:
Reading the headlines about what's happening in Israel and the West Bank has left me feeling a sinking, sickening feeling of despair. I don't really understand what Sharon and Arafat are trying to accomplish and that frightens me. I do understand what Hamas is trying to do and it appalls me. I read Amer Zahr's column yesterday and it made me angry (She was from Dheisheh, Palestine).
He wrote: "The Palestinian suicide bomber, however, is not the same creature that flies a plane into a New York City skyscraper. The latter is calculating, deliberate and has intent to murder. The former is dejected, impulsive and has intent to die." It's a smart political and rhetorical move to try to distance the tactics of the Palestinian suicide bombers from those of al-Qaida, but Zahr's formulation is breathtakingly dishonest.
The suicide bomb attacks are not impulsive, they are planned out and calculated. And they are planned out with the intent to murder. These are not monks in Vietnam lighting themselves on fire in protest. A person who walks into an area crowded with civilians and detonates a bomb has intent to murder. Is Zahr seriously asserting that this is just a spectacular form of suicide? I find it difficult to believe that any of the Palestinian suicide bombers are unaware of the death tolls of previous attacks. The bombs are full of screws and nails! The ends of the Sept. 11 hijackers and the Palestinian suicide bombers are different, but the means are essentially the same: The indiscriminate killing of civilians.
Zahr's column invites me to contextualize the actions of the suicide bombers. He's correct that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances that cry out for redress.
But allow me to decontextualize for a moment. The suicide bombings are murder. If the bombers are politicized and legitimately aggrieved, then they are politicized and legitimately aggrieved murderers.
To the Daily:
Amer G. Zahr, perhaps the leading Arab spokesperson on this campus, writes a column memorializing a Palestinian suicide terrorist. In a future column he will no doubt chide "the media" for creating the impression that Arab-Americans support terrorism. In Yiddish, this is called "chutzpah."
I don't know the word in Arabic.