Dear Mr. Secretary,
Bethlehem University issued the enclosed press release on January 5, 2003. As you will see, Brother Vincent Malham, President-Vice Chancellor, describes conditions around the University where Bethlehem’s residents have been subjected to continuous curfews imposed by Israeli occupation forces. Similar press releases have been issued over the past several months by other Palestinian universities and human rights organizations.
The situation in the West Bank, and particularly in Bethlehem, has become intolerable. The abhorrent tactics employed by the Israeli military–the use of collective punishment against unarmed, innocent Palestinians, has forced residents of the Bethlehem area, and Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah before them, to live under conditions not fit for humans.
While we condemn the Israeli military oppression of innocent Palestinians, we also acknowledge the suffering of and condemn all acts of violence against innocent Israeli civilians.
The State Department, under your leadership and guidance, must take an active role in ending the suffering of innocent civilians under a foreign occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. We call upon you to design and implement a solution that will protect them from mistreatment. It is our moral obligation to intervene. As an ally of the state of Israel, we have given financial and military aid to Israel has enabled the Israeli military to engage in acts of brutality against innocent civilian populations. As a nation that promotes human rights and democratic principles, we have an obligation to ensure that US military equipment is used by other countries for defensive purposes only, and not to oppress an entire nation that refuses to allow its will to be broken. As a government that has taken an active role in promoting and brokering peace in the region, US credibility and effectiveness is significantly compromised by our blind support for the Israeli government.
Israel is obligated, under many UN Security Council Resolutions, including UNSCR 237, “to ensure the safety, welfare and security of the inhabitants. and respect the humanitarian principles contained in the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.” How can we justify enforcing UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to Iraq while we ignore those more basic and more serious resolutions that pertain to the mistreatment, by Israeli occupation forces, of the Palestinian civilian population?
Mr. Secretary, please remember: The Israeli oppression of Palestinian civilians is done with the help of our U.S. tax dollars and our gifts of military equipment to the State of Israel; it is facilitated by ongoing moral and political support. We, the American people and government, are therefore guilty of encouraging Israel’s brutal occupation of lands that it occupies in contravention of international law. As a nation, we can not legitimately claim that we have no part in the oppression of the Palestinian people. I call upon you, as a proponent of freedom, liberty and human rights, to work to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. At the very least, we must end United States’ complicity in this horrible injustice.
I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King: “Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”
MICHAEL S. LADAH Las Vegas, Nevada
MICHAEL S. LADAH is an Arab American who lived and worked in various parts of the Middle East. He is the author of “Quicksand, Oil and Dreams: The Story of One of Five Million Dispossessed Palestinians.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org