Friday, August 16, 2002
Fact-checking Alterman: I don't often check Alterman's blog, but I checked it out today and was shocked by what he said.
Marwan Barghouti, as I understand it, plans and helps execute attacks against Israelis only in the occupied territories, where right-wing and opportunist Israelis have chosen to put themselves and their families at risk on land to which they have no legal or moral right. He has expressed a willingness to negotiate peace based on Israel's internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. He is, in other words, the very definition of a freedom fighter; a violent one, to be sure, but fighting a violent enemy. If Israel were to come to its senses, he is the kind of leader with whom it would need to make peace. But like Hamas, Ariel Sharon prefers war and occupation to peace and compromise and in seeking to try one of the other side's more moderate leaders for murder, seeks to destroy any hope for the former, thereby presenting himself as the champion of the latter. It is a horrifying spiral of death with Sharon and company leading the whirlwind. The blood of many, Jew and Arab, is on their hands.
First, Alterman's understanding is faulty -- very faulty. The "as I understand it" clause should be translated as: "I didn't do any basic reporting."
A rather simple search provides us with this, from the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.: A list of recent suicide bomb attacks for which the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. Israel believes Barghouti to be in charge of Al Aqsa:
May 27, 2000 - a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a mall in Petah Tikva; two Israeli civilians were killed, and 37 injured.
April 12, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market; six people were killed and 104 wounded.
March 30, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself in a Tel-Aviv café; one was killed and about 30 others injured.
March 29, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself inside a supermarket in Jerusalem; two people were killed and 28 injured.
March 21, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself in the middle of King George Street in Jerusalem; three people were killed and 86 injured.
March 2, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself near a bar-mitzvah celebration in Beit Yisrael neighborhood in Jerusalem; ten people were killed and more than 50 injured.
Jan. 27, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself in Jerusalem; one person was killed and more than 150 wounded.
The Jerusalem listed in some of these cases isn't what many like to call "Arab East Jerusalem." How do I know? Well, let's just call it common sense, suicide bombers don't target Arabs, they target Israelis.
The March 30 attack was in Tel Aviv -- not in the "occupied" territory. (Unless you consider all of Israel to be "occupied territory," as many Palestinians do.)
The May 27 attack was in Petah Tikva -- also not in the occupied territory. You can find it on this map. It's just East of Tel Aviv and spelled, on this map, Petah Tiqwa.
I'm curious to see if this little fact-check affects Alterman's view of Barghouti as a "freedom fighter."
But besides that major mistake, the rest of Alterman's piece also disturbs me. While I personally don't think that it's a good idea for Jewish settlers to create towns in the West Bank, using Alterman's logic it's OK to kill them because the "have no legal or moral right" to be there.
Israel won that territory during the 1967 war when they were attacked by their Arab "neighbors." It may be distasteful to Alterman, but they won that land fair and square. It's not as though Israel overran a Palestinian state either, the West Bank was part of Jordan. Why didn't the Palestinians hospitable neighbors give them a state before the 1967 war?
Let's draw a parallel. I live in San Diego, Calif., which was taken in a war from Mexico. If Mexican-Americans who have lived here for three generations decide to blow up the Scottish Rite center down in Mission Valley does that make them "freedom fighters?" After all, when you take a territory in war, it's not really yours according to Alterman's logic. I know what you're thinking: "It's a totally different situation -- nobody really believes that the Southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico and should be returned -- or turned into its own independent country like Palestine should." Well, you're wrong.
As far as who is responsible for the "spiral of death," it's not Sharon. He wasn't even prime minister when this thing started. Sharon was elected in a free and fair election, unlike Arafat, in response to the intifada.
I don't believe that Sharon prefers war. I don't think that any Israeli "prefers" war. However, I think that Yasser Arafat does prefer war -- Clinton's last gasp effort at creating a lasting peace would have succeeded and the Palestinians would have their own state today.
I don't think Barghouti is someone Israel could make peace with. Anyone who condones the murder of civilians, including women and children, is evil. This includes Alterman, who thinks it's understandable that a "freedom fighter" would kill children.