Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Netanyahu's Hilton Head

If it served his purpose, Netanyahu, the once again Prime Minister of Israel, could convince me that Hilton Head Island is a poverty stricken ghetto. After all, he would point out that when my county in North Georgia wanted to start a free medical clinic for those who had no insurance and little income, we went to Hilton Head to see how they helped their poverty stricken population. He would go on to declare that all over that Island homes are for sale and churches are offering food and clothes to those who live in poverty. The newspapers are full of work wanted ads and businesses are closing. Walk around Hilton Head and you will see teen agers in jeans with holes in the knees, AA operating full time and the streets full of people who have not worked at a job in years.

Apply Netanyahu logic and I am convinced. After all, he has the facts to build the case that Hilton Head is a poverty stricken ghetto. Then last week. I actually went to Hilton Head and saw what life there is really like. Wow. In spite of the fact that everything he could have said about Hilton Head is actually true, it is mostly a play ground for the super rich. The beaches are lined with multi-million dollar homes. Luxury yachts fill the harbors. Restaurants serve hundred dollar dinners for two and I could not count all the pristine golf courses.

What’s my point? Select the statistics and stories and you can paint even Hilton Head anyway you want it to be.

Now, what does that have to do with anything? I am frustrated by what I so often hear on the news and from right wing “Christian” pulpits about the Palestinians, such as: They are blood thirst terrorists. They are ungrateful, uncouth, unwashed and backward. All they want to do is destroy Israel and kill infidels. I even heard one news announcer say that the Palestinians have never had life so good as since Israel has been “helping” them. On and on it goes until the case is made that Palestinians are somewhat subhuman and nobody could live next door to them.

But, I have been there and the Palestinians are no more filled with hate than Hilton Head is filled with poverty. Palestinians are families seeking to give their children an adequate education, to offer them a degree of safety and dignity as they play in their own yard and to live a life free of bombs, assassinations, hunger, imprisonment and torture. Palestinians want the freedom to worship God without being denigrated and misrepresented by those who seek to remove them from their homes.

That is why I was so confused by Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations. I realize that he was actually not speaking to the delegates, but to the American TV audience. The UN delegates knew him too well and they know the other side of the story. He actually compared the Hamas rockets that killed one person during the year leading up to the peace truce of last June to the Nazi blitz of British civilians during World War Two. (He failed to mention that 49 Palestinians were killed every month during that time by the IDF and settlers.) In describing Israel’s “care” in protecting the citizens of Gaza, he failed to mention the closures of the life line, denying food and medicines to desperate Palestinians. He presented the conflict as though it were a battle between two equal forces. He did not explain why Israel suffered 13 deaths, almost half by friendly fire, while more than 1400 Palestinians were killed, many of whom died a very painful death due to white phosphorus dropped on civilians by Israel.

Netanyahu even attacked the report of the UN Human Rights Fact Finding Mission appointed to investigate all violations of human rights laws in Gaza. While the Goldstone Report condemns the firing of rockets by Palestinian groups as “constituting war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the weight of the report is focused on the actions of Israel:

NEW YORK/GENEVA – The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Thursday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.[1]

The report includes facts that the prime minister would prefer that the American audience not hear, such as the deliberate firing on civilians, the shooting of families carrying white flags while trying to get to safer shelters, the bombing of hospitals and ambulances and locking Palestinians into buildings and blowing them up. One international human rights group after another accuses Israel of war crimes.

Palestinians are ordinary people, probably no better and no worse than the rest of us. But, in order to know that, you almost have to go there.

Thomas L.Are
October 8, 2009
[1] PRESS RELEASE, September 15, 2009, United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

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