Editor, Daily Nexus:
The UCSB Center for Middle East Studies is to be praised for bringing Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to campus, an articulate and passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause. Her speech on Sunday not only detailed the grievances of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation but was even-handed in its criticism of mismanagement and corruption on the part of the Palestinian authority. UCSB students should also be commended for the warm greeting they gave Dr. Ashrawi, despite the divisive nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The only dark spot was the inflammatory claim by a member of the audience that Palestinians are “baby killers.” This was in reference to a 10-month-old baby that was killed by sniper fire in the Jewish enclave in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron. While this is certainly a tragic event that should sadden us all, there is a troubling amount of racism inherent in such epithets that seem to place Israeli suffering ahead of the regular suffering of the Palestinians who live under their rule.
If infants and young children injured or killed in the line of crossfire are to be used to label an entire people as inhuman barbarians, then let us look at the entire picture. Ten-month-old Shalhevet Pas, the above-mentioned infant, was the third Israeli child under the age of 16 killed since the outbreak of violence last September. Yet there seems to be relatively little moral outrage about the death of Ahmed Al-Assar, a 15-year-old who was shot in the chest while walking to school this past week. He was not the third innocent young Palestinian to die in the current round of violence – he was the 72nd.
Israeli occupation apologists claim that there is such a high level of Palestinian casualties because Yasser Arafat’s government has been paying Palestinian mothers and fathers to send their children into harm’s way. Such a racist cynicism has a dehumanizing effect and is yet another way to blame the victims for their predicament.
The point is not to portray Israelis as baby or child killers either, but to point out that the death of ANY child, let alone innocent people in general, is part of the collective tragedy of a misguided occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such a tragedy will not be resolved by finger-pointing or racist epithets, and, thankfully, Dr. Ashrawi represents the moderate tone of discourse that will ultimately be the key to ending the bloodshed in Israel and especially in the occupied territories.