Letter to the Editor: Palestinian age-old practice of killing not very old

The debate about Israel’s military occupation over the Palestinians is peculiar in that Joe Tarkoff never confronts the main point (“Israelis more interested in negotiating,” March 1). Like defenders of colonialism before him, Tarkoff invents rhetorical decoys and appeals to prejudice in order to avoid the central fact that throwing a people out of their homeland is fundamentally immoral.

When it was pointed out that Israel uses massively disproportionate force against Palestinians, Tarkoff drew up an analogy involving U.S. and Nazi soldiers, as if the Palestinians were comparable to fascists occupying Europe instead of a stateless people who were themselves fighting against occupation. The only specific “defense” Tarkoff offered for this was “Of course, these statistics are misleading” before moving on to other red herrings.

Tarkoff repeated this performance when it was noted that several hundred Israeli soldiers, several human rights groups and a former leading New York Times reporter all said that Israel attacks and kills Palestinian civilians intentionally. Ignoring the testimony of these soldiers and human rights groups, Tarkoff quoted one pro-Israeli American pundit and one pro-Israeli advocacy group to “prove” that the reporter is a liar.

Would implicit comparison to Nazis and this paltry standard of proof pass muster if the Palestinians weren’t Arabs, the most demonized group in America today?

Tarkoff’s most open pandering to anti-Arab sentiment appeared in response to my explanation that Israeli historians have recently written about Israeli state-terrorism and ethnic cleansing after opening state archives. Tarkoff smugly ignored this and then cited some Palestinian attacks on settlers in the 1920s to assert that “Palestinian killing of civilians is an age-old practice.” Can one imagine a statement like “Jewish killing of civilians is an age-old practice?” Such is the racist outlook permeating the pro-Israel mindset.

This is not a matter of “political correctness” but of historical correctness. Israel’s most prestigious historian, Benny Morris, explained in his book “Righteous Victims” that the first Zionist settlers who descended on Palestine from Europe around 1890 “quickly began to behave like lords and masters” and, “like white colonists everywhere … they were a minority exploiting and occasionally displacing a native population.” Morris wrote that this ill treatment and subsequent colonization, which included many massacres, motivated Palestinian fear and anger – not “age-old” lust for killing.

Morris is no Palestinian sympathizer. He has said he regrets that Zionism couldn’t expel even more Palestinians in 1948. But Morris is at least honest about Israel’s record – which is far more than we can say for Mr. Tarkoff.

– Mohammad Junaid Alam is a senior journalism major.

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