To the Editors: On Repression
by Steven Feuerstein

Sent to the Chicago Tribune on June 11, 2001.

The recent suicide bombing that killed 20 Israeli youth has been widely and rightly condemned.  Ariel Sharon has been almost as widely lauded for his "restraint", meaning that he has so far decided against launching a massive military attack on Palestinian civilian population centers, which would constitute collective punishment and is illegal under international law.

Instead, Mr. Sharon has carried out a major increase in repression against Palestinians, including the complete shut-down of Birzeit University, which was accompanied by an attack on university students that injured 17.  The Israel Defense Force also just killed three Bedouin women as they lay sleeping in their tent in a refugee camp in Gaza with what is described by the Tribune as "possibly errant tank fire."

It is, without doubt, truly horrifying that a person would pack his body with explosives and deliberately kill himself in order to kill and maim innocent civilians.  But is that any less horrible than a powerful, highly-trained and well-organized military force that casually and "accidentally" kills three women lying in a tent?

Israel always says that it is simply returning fire.  Israel always says that is investigating reports of "errors" or "wrongdoing" by its military.  Yet Israel has also in the last nine months killed 172 Palestinian children, most of them in response to non-life-threatening situations as documented by an series of human rights reports.

As an American Jew, I am horrified at the way that Israel destroys the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians and then smugly accuses Arafat of being the case of all the violence.  I am also saddened at the inability of my fellow Jews, particularly leaders of prominent Jewish organizations, to express even a single criticism of Israel's behavior or an iota of compassion for those killed in our name by Israel.