The tragic Boston bombings that killed three and wounded more than 250 have surprisingly resonated worldwide, driving some — including hundreds of Palestinian and international runners who were about to inaugurate the launch of the Bethlehem Marathon in the small Palestinian town where Jesus Christ was believed to have been born — to observe a minute’s silence in tribute to the American victims of this horrifying act.
This unprecedented and thoughtful public action reflects the feelings of many Palestinians who are sympathetic towards others, since they too have been victims of the merciless Israeli usurpation of their homeland and continued victimisation. For example, the Bethlehem Marathon circles the ancient biblical city four times on a course that was limited by the confines of Israel’s sprawling and illegal “Apartheid Wall” that divides Israel from the Occupied Territories.
The two suspects in the Boston bombings, who were of Chechen origin, were reportedly motivated by the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It came on the heels of a deadly attack last week in Afghanistan that killed 17 civilians, including 12 children.
Although the era of colonialism has theoretically ended, relations between the western nations and the Third World remain troublesome, if not dangerous; especially if western military intervention, an expensive venture, seems the only recourse. It is time that we all find a way out of this debacle. It is obviously up to the new generation to come up with a more reasonable solution, as is evident from concerns expressed by student groups around the world.
Coinciding with these remarkable events was, for example, a “historic decision” of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) at its annual conference in Seattle last week in support of a Palestinian boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The 800 academics at the conference were responding positively to a call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACHI), thus becoming the “first academic organisation in the US to boycott Israeli institutions,” reported Mondoweiss.net, “which are deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights and denial of the right of education and academic freedom to Palestinians”.
It was also noteworthy that while in Turkey last week, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, unexpectedly saw, much to the disappointment of Israelis, similarities between the recent Boston bombings and the 2010 Israel commando attack in international waters on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara which was loaded with humanitarian aid for the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed then and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded.
Kerry told a press briefing last Sunday in Istanbul: “I particularly say to the families of [the Turkish] people who were lost in the incident that we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathise with them,” and citing the Boston bombing, he further noted: “It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re sensitive to that.”
Here, Kerry dropped a bombshell when he revealed that he had asked the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to delay his scheduled trip to Gaza, saying that it was not the right “point in time”. His suggestion created an uproar and the prime minister declared later that he was definitely going as scheduled to Gaza, where the Palestinian fighter group, Hamas, is in full control.
Unfortunately, this confrontation came at a time when the new Hamas politburo in Gaza was reportedly cajoling European leaders to take Hamas off their terror list — promising that there will not be henceforth any “martyrdom attacks inside Israel”. Hamas officials insist that they have not undertaken any such attacks since 2004.
It is rather bewildering that the Obama administration, much like its predecessors, shuns any serious bid at twisting Israel’s arms to pave the road to peace in Middle East. There are many other issues where American officials seem willing to hide their heads under the blanket, refusing, for example, to focus on Israel’s nuclear arsenal, but willing to confront Iran on the same issue. Israel is a major recipient of US financial and military aid, which should give the Obama administration more political ammunition to compel Israel to reach a decent settlement with the Palestinians. All agree that time is running out for a two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Meanwhile, it was amazing to see Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, on a “charm offensive” in Israel last Sunday and willing to take a ride in an Israeli military plane the next day to have a bird’s eye view of the country — to see how small Israel is! If Hagel wanted to be fair, he might as well have taken a tour of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and seen its shockingly small area, now occupied by more than 350,000 illegal Israeli colonists. That is, if Israel allowed the Palestinians to take him aboard a plane to view the tiny West Bank. He could have told Kerry all about it.
George S.Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org