Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, September 02, 2003  

I rarely comment on Israel. For one, I'm not close enough to the situation to offer anything but the most superficial commentary. More to the point (since the first reason never stopped me from commenting on other things) the fantastic intractability of the mess seems to resist intellible observations.

But today, others commented: the Or Commission.

In a scathing report on Israel's treatment of its Arab citizens, a public inquiry Monday castigated the government and police for a heavy-handed, chaotic response to riots three years ago in which 13 Arabs were killed at the beginning of the Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

The report, released after months of anticipation, condemned Israeli police for using excessive force — including snipers — to quell demonstrations by Israeli Arabs in support of Palestinians in the West Bank and for treating Arab citizens as a "hostile element" within Israeli society.

The report poses a number of hard questions for the Israelis, and also for their supporters (read: US lawmakers). Does Israel's policy and methods of control actually create long-term safety, or do they rather sow the seeds of hatred that will continue to produce violent opposition for decades to come? If the Israelis treat their own Arab citizens in this manner, how should we judge the way they treat Palestinians?

The larger question--and one the US needs to ask itself--is whether the very idea of an Israeli religious state (or for that matter, a racial one) is consistent with democracy. In some ways, this report is more damning because it discusses Arab citizens rather than Palestinians. While the latter relationship can be regarded as one of war, the former is domestic oppression. Is this a reasonable position for a democracy to hold? Obviously, democracy isn't a precondition for US support. Israel's democracy is, however, the most common justification for US support.

If you find a paper copy of the New York Times, you'll notice that the Or Commission report appears on the same page as a column titled "Israel Kills a Member of Hamas and Threatens to Invade Gaza." US and world support of the Israeli regime allow it to continue to operate like a rogue nation, assassinating its political foes and oppressing its citizens. If any progress is going to be made toward peace in Israel, the US government is going to have to demand more from the Israelis.

posted by Jeff | 1:09 PM |
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