We know a lot about him. Taylor Force grew up in Texas, loved horses, was an avid skier, played the guitar, graduated from West Point, served as an officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, lived in Lexington, Kentucky before moving to Nashville to continue his studies at Vanderbilt. “He lived really large.” His father said of him. A friend remembered his as a peaceful, kind and just an all-American guy. Then he went on a school trip to Israel where he was stabbed to death by an outraged Palestinian. By any measure, 29 year old Taylor Force was an innocent victim and his death was an unnecessary tragedy. I can only imagine how I would feel if it had been my son.
My local newspaper headlines, “American Student Latest Victim in Palestinian Violence.” Vice President Joe Biden said “the U.S. not only deplored a recent wave of Palestinian attacks in Israel but also condemns the failure to condemn these acts.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points to the challenges Israel faces. “The first one is the persistent incitement in Palestine society that glorifies murderers of innocent people and calls for a Palestinian state not to live in peace with Israel, but to replace Israel.”[i]
My newspaper seems to forget Israeli daily violence committed against Palestinians on their own land, both by the IDF and by settlers. Joe Biden, as usual, blames the conflict on the resistance and not on the occupation. And poor Netanyahu believes his own propaganda that it is the Palestinian and not his Israeli government that glorifies violence.
However, when seen in context, Taylor Force was just one of the many innocent victims of Israel’s oppression. And unless we are willing to remember, face and address that context, Taylor Force will have died in vain. He stepped into a hornet’s nest of hostility.
Less than two years ago, over 500 children were killed during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza which deliberately targeted schools, hospitals and water supplies. Today, Gaza is an open air prison lacking housing, water, food, medicine and electricity. Its people, most of them refugees from Israel’s previous aggressions, have been used as a testing ground for Israel’s arms and surveillance market. In the West Bank, Jewish only roads and a twenty-five foot wall separate families from their loved ones, farmers from their fields, children from their schools and the sick from their hospitals… all justified, defended and financed by the U.S. in the name of “security.” No one dares ask about “Palestinian security?”
Does anyone question what is going on that would cause young kids to sacrifice their lives to express their frustration. It is too simple to just label them “terrorist.” That label has lost its sting. Anyone who resists being occupied and abused has been called a terrorist.
I don’t know if Taylor Force was targeted because he was an American, but he was certainly put in harm’s way and set up by US indifference to Israel’s violence.
March 12, 2016