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Colin Powell and My Grandmother


Where Israel is concerned, U.S. foreign policy never ceases to amaze. When Palestinian in-fighting took place in Gaza last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell had the following to say about the United States’ position: “Just have to watch it unfold.” Interestingly enough, my grandmother’s position was the same and it is unclear who announced it first.

The majority of Americans may just brush over such ridiculous comments from the U.S. Secretary of State, but I, for one, refuse to allow it to pass without comment. As a tax-paying American citizen, my tax dollars deserve to be better employed. Hiring senior policy advisors who can’t tell the difference between cause and effect does not serve the American people’s interests.

Consider the following historic causes of this seemingly never-ending conflict,

Cause #1: The U.S. closed its borders to Jewish immigration during the Holocaust fearing an influx of Jews fleeing the tragedy brought upon them in Europe. In fact, both of these acts — closing the borders and carrying out the tragedy ­ are two of the most blatant anti-Semitic chapters ever registered. Both had nothing to do with Arabs in general or Palestinians in specific. Instead of opening its own borders, the U.S. put its entire might behind transforming Palestine, an Arab country in the Middle East, by force, into a Jewish-only (i.e., in today’s terminology, Apartheid) state.

Cause #2: The U.S. historically, and even more so and more bluntly under the current Bush Administration, financially, morally and politically supports Israel in maintaining one of the world’s longest-lasting withstanding military occupations of another people, the Palestinians. When added to the newest American occupation in Iraq, many are correctly acknowledging that U.S. determination to maintain these two military occupations, albeit under different names and modalities, is part of a larger U.S. policy in the Middle East that aims to further plant U.S. hegemony in the region.

Cause #3: U.S. arms manufacturers, in full coordination with both houses of government and with billions of U.S. tax dollars in funding; continue to provide Israel with a non-stop supply of deadly weapons that Israel illegally — as per U.S. Law, not to mention International Law — uses to oppress Palestinians. The U.S.’s military-industrial complex is so intertwined in the corridors of U.S. policy making, it is no wonder that the continuance of conflict has become an American way of life.

Cause #4: As the world community, in near unanimous consensus, for 50 plus years has condemned Israel for gross violations of Palestinian human rights and most recently, for building an illegal landgrab Wall, the U.S. willfully and systematically defends Israel’s illegal actions. Instead of taking the moral high ground and measuring the historical injustice against the Palestinians with the same yardstick that was used to, albeit late, measure and dismantle Apartheid, the U.S. prefers to challenge the entire world order for the narrow interests of Israeli fundamentalism.

Cause #5: Whereas the U.S. has shown the resolve to mobilize an international peacekeeping force in dozens of hot spots around the world, in Palestine, U.S. policy amounts to watching Israel — after arming it to the teeth — wield its first-world military might on a helpless Palestinian civilian community.

Cause #6: While a good number of Israeli illegal settlers (more accurately called colonists,) who have implanted themselves in the so-called settlements throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, hold U.S. citizenships and come from Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Florida to wreak havoc, the U.S. pretends that they have no responsibility toward these violent thugs. More recently, the U.S. applauds Israel when it offers compensation packages for settlers in Gaza, forgetting that it is U.S. tax dollars, to the tune of $4-5 billion per year, that enable Israel to compensate these people who have broken international and humanitarian law for more than three decades.

Effect: To be honest, as a Palestinian American who has lived through the last ten years in Palestine, the hardest ten years in this just struggle for national liberation, I’m astonished that so little Palestinian in-fighting has taken place. Clearly, the Palestinian resolve when confronted with unimaginable odds will only be fully understood after the world realizes what it is that the Palestinians are really up against. I’m even more astonished that the Palestinians are still willing to negotiate to resolve the conflict, let alone maintain a working society without the basic elements of society ­ law, security, freedom of movement, etc. If Israel proportionately killed the same number of Americans as it has Palestinians in the last four years alone, it would amount to over 250,000 people! Any other people, above all Americans, would have long ago equipped themselves with deadly weapons to resist such a brutal foreign military occupation.

If after four years in office and after contributing, firsthand, to the indigenous Palestinian people being battered with U.S. weapons and because of U.S. political stubbornness, the best Secretary Powell can do is agree with my grandmother, then it’s time he moved on, maybe back to his beloved military career. As Palestinians, we will not allow someone to pull the trigger that kills us and then come to walk in our funeral.

If U.S. interests in the Middle East continue to be hijacked and jeopardized by a rapacious Israeli state, then maybe not only the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are occupied territories. Maybe we need a peacekeeping force immediately sent to Capital Hill. In the meantime, Palestinians’ eyes will be fixed on Washington and we will “just have to watch it unfold.”

SAM BAHOUR is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank and can be reached at

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and blogs at

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