In the hours following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, news reports said Palestinians cheered and passed out candy. But Steve Sosebee, an international relief worker who was in Gaza during the attacks, denied Palestinians were happy that Americans were the targets of terror.
“I was in the worst refugee camps with people who would have cause to see the people responsible for their suffering suffer as well,” Sosebee said.
“People started to come up and tell us how sorry they were for what happened. They offered condolences and apologies for what happened.” They would tell him this was not the Islamic way of expressing anger at America, Sosebee said.
Sosebee founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, an organization that helps to provide medical care for children in refugee camps. At the time of the attacks he was with a team of doctors performing open heart surgery on babies. He said he wondered, “what is going to happen to us?” He said it was not the place he wanted to be at a time like that.
Sosebee said the American media are biased in representations of the Middle Eastern conflict, and it represents the Palestinians in a way that tends to be more sympathetic toward the Israeli state.
“It is done in a manner which is insulting to everyone’s intelligence,” he said, adding that the media makes it look like Palestinians are “the ones who are aggressive and Israelis are mere victims.”
But Sosebee portrayed the Israelis as the aggressors, calling the Israeli occupation of Palestinian settlements the highest form of terrorism. He blamed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for starting the second Intifada after visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
He also attacked the American government and the Bush administration for helping to fund the Israeli military.
“Until government policy changes to be more fair, balanced and reasonable” the oppression would continue, he said. “We have to intervene and say enough is enough.”
“If we continue to humiliate and occupy Palestinians I think we are in for more, I am sorry to say.”
Sosebee also said the Palestinians proposed a ground-breaking compromise at the recent Arab summit, but it seems that this proposal has been essentially ignored.
“When are the Israelis going to make their compromise?” he asked.
LSA senior Eric Feldman said the Israeli proposal “is sitting on a table in Camp David waiting for Arafat’s signature.” Feldman said Sosebee’s message was “thinly veiled anti-Semitic.”
Supporters of the creation of a Palestinian state said Sosebee was empowering in his willingness to stand up and talk about a difficult subject.
“A lot of the realities of this country were surfaced. A lot of people are afraid to share their opinions and I am glad that he spoke his mind and was able to back it up with facts,” LSA senior Wael Hakmeh said.
Business School junior Nada Abu-Isa said, “It is really nice to hear an unbiased point of view, especially when it is difficult to turn on the TV and get one.”