Rod Driver

Westerly Sun, August 1, 2006

Why won't our leaders stand up to confront Israel's latest round of attacks on civilians?

I did not truly understand the plight of the Palestinians until the early 1980s during Israel's occupation and bombardment of Lebanon and its Palestinian refugees.

An AP story by Terry Anderson (later taken hostage) published on July 30,1982 described the effects of Israel's white phosphorus bombs. In a Beirut hospital Anderson watched Dr. Amal Shama and others fight to save three-year-old Ahmed Baitam from the trauma caused by burning phosphorus.

The boy died in agony a day after his family, taking refuge in the cellar, was hit by the phosphorus shell. Ahmed's twin 5-day-old sisters were more fortunate. They were dead on arrival at the hospital. Their bodies were still smoldering, so doctors left them in a pail of water overnight.

The world hardly remembers the many thousands who died, although some might recall the Israeli-sanctioned massacres of about 1700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut in September 1982.

The atrocities of 1982 led Israel's Kahan Commission of Inquiry to recommend removal of Ariel Sharon from his post as minister of defense. Sharon then resigned.

Hezbollah, formed during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, is credited by many for eventually driving Israeli forces out of Lebanon in 2000. In 2004, Israel and Lebanon exchanged prisoners.

When Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 of this year, it wanted to exchange them for three Lebanese still held by Israel. But for more than a year Israel had been planning a massive attack on Lebanon, and the capture of the two soldiers provided the excuse it wanted. So now, Israel is demolishing Lebanon's infrastructure and killing or maiming thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians who had done nothing wrong. A high percentage of the victims are again children.

The Israeli propaganda has been working beautifully. On TV, we see interviews with distraught relatives of the captured Israeli soldiers. We hear nothing from the families of more than 9,000 Arab hostages held for years by the Israelis. Some are children as young as 12. And, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department, Arabs in Israeli prisons are routinely tortured by their captors.

In southern Lebanon "to avoid civilian casualties," the Israelis are dropping leaflets warning the citizens to leave their homes and flee the area. But the Israelis have destroyed roads, bridges and fuel supplies. And as the terrified, trapped civilians holding white flags try to flee, Israelis bomb and strafe them using F-16s, Apache helicopters, tanks, cannons and other hi-tech weapons supplied by the United States. See As they have done in the past, the Israelis are also bombing ambulances taking the wounded to hospital.

While the media has been focused on Lebanon, Israel has also been on demolition and killing sprees in Gaza and in the town of Nablus in Palestine. The Israelis spent three days demolishing government buildings and destroying official records in Nablus. At least six Palestinians were killed and 65 injured. More victims may be found when the rubble is cleared.

The Israelis always say the killing of civilians and UN observers is accidental. This was what they said about the massacre on April 18, 1996 of 102 Lebanese civilians taking refuge in the United Nations compound at Qana and about the killing on June 8, 1967 of 34 U.S. sailors during Israel's hour-long assault on the USS Liberty in international waters in the Mediterranean,

It is difficult to believe that American politicians and reporters don't know what's really happening in Palestine and Lebanon. Information is readily available from B'Tselem (, Gush Shalom (, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (, the Other Israel (, Rabbis for Human Rights ( or, Yesh Gvul (, other Israeli humanitarian organizations, the Israeli paper Ha'aretz ( ) and even occasionally the right-wing Jerusalem Post (

But American officials and reporters seem too terrified of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby in the U.S., to speak the truth. The Israeli lobby threatens to defeat politicians who criticize Israel and reward those who back Israel unconditionally.

As Israel's crimes continue in Palestine and Lebanon President Bush and other politicians talk of Israel's right to "defend itself," the U.S. vetoes calls for a cease fire and Congress overwhelmingly passes a resolution condemning the "attacks against the State of Israel" and "supporting Israel's right to defend itself." Rhode Island's Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin voted for this resolution.

By now the Israelis have dropped so many bombs that the United States is rushing to supply them with more -- including white phosphorus, cluster bombs and massive "bunker busters" with illegal depleted-uranium warheads.

Where is our humanity?

Rod Driver
2nd-District R.I.
Congressional seat

Note. A friend who was in Lebanon in 1982 tells me I am wrong on the number killed in Sabra and Shatila. He and his colleagues counted 2962 bodies.