Monday 19 September 2011

Terrorism, Short Memories and Lack of Empathy

Every year at this time, our media is bombarded with scenes of commemoration ceremonies at Ground Zero, and across America for the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.  We are shown movies and documentaries about the events that took place on that fateful day, new revelations that have come to light since then and security arrangements that are now in place which have changed America and the world.  This year, which marked the 10th anniversary of America's largest terror attack on home ground, had greater significance and relevance as the new water feature at Ground Zero was finally opened to replace the buildings that once stood there.

At the time that the attacks took place on American soil ten years ago, there were more than a few Israelis who thought that the American people may view Israel in a different light in view of the terror attacks that they had experienced on their own soil.  For the first time in many years, the Americans were made to feel the threat and personal injury that Israelis have been forced to suffer since independence in 1948, and even before that.  There was a feeling among Israelis that Americans would be able to empathize with the Israeli people, and perhaps even view the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians in a slightly different way.  Perhaps there would not be such great pressure from the Americans and the rest of the international community to  force Israel to negotiate with the same group that is using terror to try to destroy the country.  Further terror attacks in London, Madrid, Bali and other locations raised this expectation even further.  Maybe these nations would also show greater understanding for Israel's fight for existence against these terror activities.

For a time, it felt as though the balance did swing a little towards greater sympathy for Israel's position.  Politicians and ordinary citizens of countries around the world showed some level of understanding for the extreme and unnatural circumstances under which Israeli citizens are forced to live while terrorists continuously attempt to blow up buses, restaurants  and other public areas, or launch missiles towards residential neighbourhoods where children sit in school classrooms.  This sympathy and understanding seemed to evaporate almost as quickly as it arose, and things went back to the same old situation that was in place prior to 9/11.  Instead, a level of self-pity replaced these feelings, with people feeling sorry for themselves that they were suddenly forced to suffer with increased levels of security at airports, train stations and other public areas.  And when the opportunity has arisen to associate with Israel and to hold the Palestinians to account for their terror acts against Israelis, suddenly the feeling of identification is forgotten.  The identification with another nation that has also been subjected to unforgiveable acts of terror, initiated by the same groups as those attacking the rest of the free world, is somehow completely missing.  The previous status quo has been replaced by a new one, and people have returned right back to where they were before.

Later this week on Friday, the Palestinians plan to bring a vote to the UN General Assembly requesting greater recognition for the Palestinian people.  It is not quite clear what the nature of the Palestinians' request will be, and whether they will be requesting full membership of the UN General Assembly, or whether they will be going as far as requesting the UN to authorise the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.  Whatever it is, more than 100 countries have lined themselves up to support the Palestinian initiative at the UN.  This is how the world is responding to an organisation that has constantly acted as a terror organisation over the years.  Although much of the world's ire is directed towards Israel for the current hiatus in the peace process, it remains on the record that the Palestinians have still not removed the clause in the PLO charter that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.  The current breakdown in talks is down to the Palestinians not agreeing to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.  Surely this should prevent them from coming to the UN with their application.

An article in an Israeli newspaper today referred to the current Palestinian initiative at the UN, and Hamas' position on this process.  Hamas has not supported the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority's intention to make an application at the UN, bringing to the surface many internal disagreements between the various Palestinian factions on this issue.  It was written today that Hamas would change their position and support the UN initiative, as long as it was agreed that there would be no acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist.  It astonishes me that the international community would even think about debating an issue like this under these circumstances.  Before the UN admits a new entity to its hallowed halls, it has a responsibility to protect and defend the rights of the existing members.  This responsibility is not being fulfilled in the current circumstances.

The events of 9/11 and other attacks of terror remain close to the families of the victims, and to the various countries who suffered from them.  There is much sympathy from Israelis for the victims of these events and their families.  Who knows more what suffering these people are enduring than those who have suffered it themselves.  The price paid in human casualties and the attack on their freedom will not be forgotten in a hurry.  This unfortunately does not translate into a feeling of identification and understanding from these countries for other countries who suffer from this assault on their freedom in a more extreme way i.e. by an attack on their very right to exist.  Despite the intention by some countries to oppose the UN initiative this week, it somehow seems that this is a battle that Israel is destined to fight largely on her own.  Any agreement at the UN later this week to upgrade the diplomatic status of the Palestinians will be clear evidence of this.

1 comment:

mahmud abasadah said...
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