A Tale of Two Massacres

As Americans mourn the loss of those who were killed in Oklahoma City two years ago, we should take a moment to remember that another hundred people were massacred just a year ago, They were killed not by some right-wing fanatic, but by a government that we support with our own tax dollars and give arms to.

On April 18, 1996, "Israel" bombed the UN compound in Qana, Lebanon. It was filled with civilians who were fleeing the Israeli onslaught that began a week earlier. The UN center was supposed to be the safest place. At least one hundred and two civilians were killed. The shells used, there were at least eight, exploded in the air and rained down shrapnel to maximize civilian casualties. They did their job. Babies' heads were cut off, children were burnt to a crisp. A mile away UN soldiers could hear " a sort of chorus of screaming".

The "Israelis" immediately said it was an accident. The US government and the US media bought it hook, line and sinker. Bill Clinton called it a "tragic misfiring in "Israel's" legitimate exercise of its right to self defense". NBC's Martin Fletcher reported that the "Israelis" "were targeting the Islamic Hizbullah guerrillas," a few of whom were apparently two football fields away. A Washington Post headline read "High-Tech Weaponry Not Infallible".

Many witnesses said they saw an "Israeli" drone, an unmanned aircraft flying overhead during the massacre. If this were true, it would mean the Israelis knew there were civilians there. The "Israelis" denied it: "At the time of the shelling we had no drone in the area," said Major General Matan Vilnai. They maintained that story until May 5th, when they were told that some nearby Norwegian troops had a video.

The video shows the "Israeli" drone flying overhead as you can hear shells landing on the refugees. The video then shows the fire in the UN center as civilians are burned inside, with the sound of the drone still in the background.

The "Israeli" military then changed their story to say that the pilotless drone was " on a different mission" and was not sending pictures. The "Israelis' then said they made a "cartographic error" and thought the UN camp was 150 yards from its actual location. Never mind that the camp was there for 18 years, almost as long as "Israel' has been occupying southern Lebanon.

Nor was Qana an isolated case. Human rights groups were pleading with the "Israeli" government, noting two days before Qana that ""Israeli" authorities appear to be asserting a right to fire indiscriminately at towns and villages," since scores of civilians had been killed by the "Israelis". And just the day before Qana, a UN base at Majdal Zoun took four direct hits from "Israeli" jet bombs, but no one was hurt in that attack.

Reporting from overseas, where the "drone video" got much bigger play, was more straight forward than in the US press. The British Independent noted that "It was clear there were only two explanations for Qana. One was military incompetence on a scale which could hardly have been expected from the much vaunted "Israeli" armed forces. The other was deliberate attack on a UN base".

A UN report, which was apparently watered down to appease the US administration, determined that it was "unlikely that the shelling of the UN compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors". "Israel" scoffed at the report. The US administration chastised the UN for being "more interested in pointing a finger instead of creating a climate of peace".

Was some commander determined to "prove his manhood?" Or worse, did the 'Israeli" Labor Prime Minister Shimon Peres want to cover his right flank and show that he knew "how to deal with the Arabs?".

 Even if it was an accident, it' s noteworthy that no "Israeli" leader came to the families asking for forgiveness as King Hussein did recently after a Jordanian soldier ran amuck killing "Israeli" school girls.

How do soldiers get themselves to attack civilians? You have to dehumanize them. Here's what an "Israeli" soldier said shortly after the attack: " Arabs are Arabs, there is nothing to be done. In a war such things are just waiting to happen". It was just some dead Arabushes and for that they make a commotion all over the world... One Arab more, one Arab less...".

A commotion all over the world? Not quite. Here's how Nightline's Ted Koppel framed his program the night of the massacre: "Imagine, for a moment, what a group like Hizbullah might do in the wake of today's "Israeli" attack on Lebanon, more than 100 Lebanese civilians dead. Imagine what Hizbullah would do if, instead of Katyusha rockets, it had access to a small nuclear device." And so, imaginary Arab atrocities took precedent over real "Israeli" ones.

"Israel" says that its occupation of southern Lebanon is necessary because Hizbullah will launch more rockets at northern "Israel" if it withdraws. The opposite is probably closer to the truth. Hizbullah was born out of the "Israeli" occupation. It did not have a substantial following prior to Israel's invasions.

The first major "Israeli" invasion was in 1978, after which the UN Security Council demanded "the withdrawal of all "Israeli" forces, immediately, from all the Lebanese territory".

That's probably the longest "immediately" of our time. Nineteen years later, the "Israeli" military is still in southern Lebanon. Occupying one tenth of that country in what "Israel" and much of the press calls its "security zone".

Then there was the more massive 1982 invasion which went all the way to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Twenty thousand Lebanese and Palestinians were killed in that assault. In 1993, "Israel" again launched a major attack. The New York Times reported on its inside pages that "Israeli" officials acknowledged that it was a "campaign to reduce dozens of villages and towns to heaps of rubble, creating an uninhabited area".

"Israel" also violates international treaties by syphoning off precious water resources from Lebanon's main southern river, the Litani -- the 1978 invasion was actually called "Operation Litani". The message is clear: "Israel" is above the law. When Arab countries, like Iraq, invade another country, sanctions are imposed and wars are waged until that aggression is reversed, but in the case of "Israel" -- well, aggression gets rewarded in spades. "Israel" gets billions of dollars in US economic and military aid.

 This is actually in violation of our own laws. President Jimmy Carter wrote that, at the time of the 1978 invasion, he had prepared to notify Congress, "as required by law, that US weapons were being used illegally in Lebanon, which would have automatically cut off all military aid to "Israel"", but he apparently never had the guts to follow up. To this day, no one in Congress has had the nerve to raise this issue -- that the Arms Export Act forbids use of US weaponry against civilians and "Israel" is in outright violation of the Act.

 The wheels of justice grind slowly, but justice will come for the families of those killed in Oklahoma City. But to what court do the families of the victims of Qana turn?

 Of course, Oklahoma City has its connection to the Mideast as well. So ingrained in us is the notion that Arabs are terrorists that in the immediate aftermath of that calamity many in the media, betraying their prejudices, rushed to blame Arabs and Muslims. CBS featured "terrorism expert" and noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson saying "This was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait".

When talking about Timothy McVeigh, much of the media to this day talk about his motivations -- there's a willingness to re-open Waco, to understand why he might have done it. One wonders if the alleged culprit had turned out to be an Arab -- would the media have re-examined the US policy toward the Mideast? Obviously not, It would have been a rallying cry to get tough on the "towlheads" and bomb some Mideast country.

Some media showed embarrassment after Oklahoma City. A Newsweek headline read, "'John Doe' is one of us." It still has not dawned on much of the press that Arabs and Muslims are part of America -- "they" are "us".

 And as in the case of "Israel", the historical context is missing. The Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 is often described as "the deadliest act of terror ever on US soil," as a sign that "the age of terror has dawned in America." This ignores the legacy of white terror on African-Americans, like the destruction of "Black Wall Street," a prosperous African-American neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. White supremists leveled a twenty block area. The official estimate is that 30 African Americans were killed in what was euphemistically called a "race riot," but the actually figure is likely ten times that -- some scholars claim 3,000 blacks were killed.

 "Terrorism" does not just come from rogue groups or disfavored governments. Terrorism -- the killing of civilians for political ends -- comes too from governments that are very chummy with our own. And it comes from groups that reflect the prevailing prejudices of the time. We should examine the deeds of our "friends" before we pontificate about the actions of others.
 
 

Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee




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