Learn the truth about Mideast
By Julio Noboa , San Antonio Express-News, Texas
If we believe the U.S. media's portrayal of the Middle East conflict, then we already have identified the good guys and the terrorists.

From local newspapers to Hollywood films, we recognize Israeli Jews as civilized, reasonable and democratic and Palestinians as terrorists.

Now this simplistic scenario is beginning to unravel as we see images of stone-throwing Palestinian youths facing Israeli tanks and supersonic F-16 jets bombing neighborhood factories. So to ensure continued unconditional U.S. support, Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon recently called for a total cease-fire.

But after rejecting a key recommendation of the Mitchell commission a freeze on Israeli settlements  Sharon's offer is a deceitful ploy. The Palestinians would be foolish to accept more settlement expansion, which further reduces what little territory they have left. Moreover, these settlements are in violation of U.N. resolutions and international law.

There are two kinds of terrorism in this ancient, contested land: The terror of occupation and the terror of desperation.

Suicide bombers are desperate, but they are not simpletons propagandized into martyrdom. Their family members, friends and neighbors have been killed, tortured, maimed or made homeless by Israeli authorities. The media will call them cowards, but what would any red-blooded American do if invaders were to occupy and terrorize our country?

The terror of desperation is born out of brutality, deprivation and powerlessness; it is sporadic, indiscriminate and often counterproductive.

The media would have us believe Israel is only responding to terrorism, but this belies the historical realities of the terror of occupation.

It wasn't the Palestinians but Zionist extremists who introduced terrorism into the Holy Land. In the 1920s, they placed bombs in Arab marketplaces to terrorize civilians. It was Zionist terrorism that, after two decades, drove the British out of Palestine to establish a Jewish state.

With the establishment of Israel, Palestinians became aliens in their own land. Ruled by military edict, they were denied freedom of movement, equal education and rights to own land. In fact, 78 percent of what historically had been Arab Palestine became Israeli. Today, Palestinians are fighting just to recover the West Bank and Gaza, 22 percent of historic Palestine.

Yet Israel controls about half these territories.

The terror of Israeli occupation is akin to slow strangulation houses are demolished, orchards destroyed, roads blockaded and water and power manipulated.

Most of all, the terror of occupation is unforgivingly violent. A disproportionate amount of military aggression will be used against protesters, stone-throwers bystanders and even security police.

Local physicians long ago determined that most of the stone-throwing youth and children who were killed had been shot in the head or upper body. This shoot-to-kill extends to Palestinian leaders, with Israeli missiles acting as judge, jury and prosecutor.

As many predicted, the violence has escalated dramatically since the election of Sharon. His election was hailed by major pro-Israel Jewish organizations. The American Jewish Congress noted, "He is widely recognized as one of Israel's greatest military heroes."

Sharon does have a quite a record. In 1953, he led a commando squad that massacred 69 men, women and children in Qibbiya. After the 1976 war, he ordered the assassination of more than 100 Palestinian resistance leaders.

In 1982, his forces allowed, if not encouraged, Israeli-supported Lebanese militia to murder more than 900 Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila.

Yet Sharon already has met twice with President Bush, while Yasser Arafat awaits his first invitation.

Still, we are told Uncle Sam is the only unbiased broker for Middle East peace. That's certainly demonstrated by U.S. aid to Israel, which including military support from 1949 through 2001  exceeds $90 billion.

Moreover, our Mideast policy has long been dictated by Israel's powerful lobby, as documented by former Congressman Paul Findley in his book, "They Dare To Speak Out."

Neither Israel nor Uncle Sam would permit an international peace-keeping force or international observers, because they wouldn't "be fair" to Israel. Perhaps they know that for decades Israel has violated numerous U.N. resolutions by denying basic human rights to Palestinians.

And then we wonder why our allies voted us off the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

I urge Americans to take off their media blinders, check out other sources of information, such as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (www.washington-report.org), and open their hearts and minds to the full story.

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