In Gabrielle Goodfellow’s column “Retaliatory Violence Stalls Peace” (10/16) she reiterates many of the by now tired arguments that attempt to justify Palestinian homicide bombings against Israeli civilians. But the logic in this piece is so twisted, the arguments so irrational, that I would even go so far as to say it is not worthy of space on the pages of the Yale Daily News.
It is beyond me how a student at Yale, or anyone for that matter, could continue to equate Palestinian terrorism, aimed exclusively at innocent civilians, with Israeli self-defense measures, whose targets are always those directly involved with organizing or carrying out terror attacks. It is simple: when Israeli soldiers kill civilians, which unfortunately does occur, albeit infrequently, it is a tragic mistake. When Palestinian terrorists kill civilians, it is their goal. To refer to these defensive actions as “state terrorism,” is dishonest and a particularly disturbing form of moral equivalency that equates Palestinian homicide bombings with the Israeli effort to defend its citizens against those attacks.
Simply looking at the facts invalidates Goodfellow’s thesis. She claims that Israel’s military activities in the territories are the primary and direct cause of terrorist attacks. Yet, the two months this summer when Israel curtailed its military presence, June and August, saw the highest death tolls of the whole year, 32 and 29 deaths respectively. When Israel began protecting its citizens, starting with Operation Defensive Shield, terrorist attacks decreased by 47% over the next year as compared to the year before. Rather than promoting terrorism, as her column alleges, Israeli military actions have clearly prevented more needless deaths.
In addition, Goodfellow ignores the fact that those who carry out homicide bombings would not be content with the cessation of settlement activity, or an Israeli withdrawal. Terrorist groups are openly fighting for nothing short of the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
Ismail Abu Shanab, who Goodfellow uses as an example of a “moderate voice” that the Israelis silenced, was actually a senior Hamas operative who supported terrorist actions and was directly involved in making Hamas policy decisions.
Goodfellow argues that by showing footage of Palestinian terrorist bombings on television, Israel is harming “Palestinian aspirations of an independent state” by turning world sentiment against them. If you follow her logic, then the United States should never have shown footage of the 9/11 attacks, for fear of inciting world condemnation of the terrorists.
I believe that Goodfellow’s use of the phrase “ethnic cleansing” is innaccurate, as well as inflammatory and irresponsible. The dictionary defines “ethnic cleansing” as “the systematic elimination of an ethnic group or groups from a region or society, as by deportation, forced emigration, or genocide.” None of these descriptions fit Israel’s actions; her citation of the accidental killing of eight Palestinian civilians is hardly proof, nor is the construction of a security wall by a government desperate to protect its citizens and not finding any cooperation on the other side.
Her reference to Sabra and Shatila is a typical propaganda tactic, which discusses this event while ignoring the fact that it was the Lebanese, not the Israelis, who in fact carried out this massacre.
Goodfellow’s allegation that Arafat has no control over Palestinian terrorism is an easy excuse, contradicted by statements by President Bush, the State Department and other world leaders. In fact, his own security services, Fatah, often perpetrate homicide bombings. And if Goodfellow is correct regarding Arafat’s powerlessness, is this supposed to reassure us that the Palestinians are ready for their own state? Or even to sit across the negotiating table?
Two days ago, three members of a U.S. delegation seeking to bring Fulbright scholarships to Palestinian students were killed by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. Given this, it is extremely difficult to believe that Palestinian terrorists are at all concerned with the future of their own people.
Goodfellow’s rhetoric is an insult to all parties involved in the conflict. Especially at a time when Yale is setting a new trend in Middle East debate, from the Jews and Muslims weekly dialogue to this weekend’s Arab Student Association conference, Goodfellow’s article stands out as unproductive propaganda. If Goodfellow really wants to help the Palestinians, it is time for her and other apologists to stop looking elsewhere for blame. These kind of blatant misrepresentations and half-truths should have no place in our intellectual community.
Sharon Goott is a sophomore in Silliman College. She is the Vice President of Political Action for the Yale Friends of Israel.