“Israel must not feel constrained in defending the homeland.”

Janna Hutz

This was the Bush response to Israel’s attack on Syria for the alleged harboring and encouragement of terrorist training camps. Couple this phrase with veiled condemnation and apparent threats from America to reduce the three-year $9 billion loan guarantees for Israel’s continued construction of a glorified wall/security barrier separating the West Bank from mainland Israel and you have one ambiguous message from the United States on its stand in this conflict.

Continuing in a well-worn cycle of unprovoked futile action and reckless excessive reaction, a suicide bomber killed 19 in a caf� before Yom Kippur commenced and Israel in turn bombed Syria to help Syria recognize Israel’s sovereignty. How much of the reaction was due to the coincidence with the religious holiday or just unfettered animosity towards Syria is hard to determine, but the result is an unnecessarily increased complication in the situation in the Middle East. Many Arab countries ostensibly contribute to the funding and training of terrorist groups that do their damage in Israel, but by directly attacking one tangible nation out of many, the vacuum effect is increased as this action potentially draws additional countries into open conflict with the Palestinians. Would Iran, Pakistan or even Saudi Arabia be next? The simplicity of a two-nation solution becomes a multinational dispute when other nations can cite self-defense as an interest in the region. Israel’s actions can and will be labeled as those of a dangerous and paranoid Zionist government by captious Muslim extremists.

What is does more embarrassingly than anything else is put the Bush administration in the last place it wants to be, out in the open where it has to make definitive policy declarations and risk contradicting a beloved and powerful ally. Upon escalating international warfare in the region how does America say it only wants to root out terrorism when whole nations are pulled into conflict, and how effectively can it help with forces already spread paper thin between two wars?

Also called to the front is a pathetic Palestinian leadership and culture of violence that needs to be addressed before any real changes are to be made. The crux of the issue is that suicide bombings don’t look pretty in the newspaper, nor do they engender any feelings of sympathy to the Palestinian cause. Arousing ire from Palestinians are emotional pieces in the paper about David Applebaum, the head of a hospital emergency room for suicide bomb victims. He and his engaged daughter were killed by the same bombs he dedicated his profession to healing. I was once told that “Nat Turner didn’t invalidate the struggle for black freedom nor does a suicide attack invalidate the Palestinians’ struggle for their freedom and that more innocent Palestinians die than innocent Jews in Israel.”

I later realized the sad truth that this fact doesn’t even matter. The manner is which the suicide attacks occur are much more powerful than the casualty numbers will ever be. The power of images and ideas are much more vivid and easily overwhelm statistics. It doesn’t say “These people are serious, let’s bargain with them.” It says “Even their leadership helps with these attacks; these are animals not to be trusted.” The reality of the situation and the disparity between the two powers must be acknowledged over the ideals. Equal media representation is a cute idea, but the reality is the Palestinians must behave in all the eyes of all; the Jews, the media, America, and the world for them to be seen as people to bargain with.

While frivolously expanding the scope enemies in this conflict, the government may have to expand the size of its wall to envelop all sides of their country from new threats. Israel has proved throughout history that it is thoroughly capable of defending itself from its detractor but there is no need to refresh the history books. How do you build a wall to keep out your neighbors when some of them live in your house and some of your people live in theirs? Relax, don’t feel constrained, build a wall or two, but make them long.

Hussain can be reached at hrahim@umich.edu.











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