Just a short time ago, President Bush clearly articulated the following policy ? “Not only must terrorism be rooted out and destroyed, but the states which aid it must be ended.” For a brief moment, America understood that nothing justifies terrorism, and more importantly, it understood what needed to be done about it.

Now, as Bush demands that Israel end its military operation of destroying the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, it seems that the moral clarity and understanding that we gained on Sept. 11 has worn off.

As a small example of how twisted things have become, pro-Palestinian rallies all over the United States use slogans and banners that equate Israel with terror. I recently saw such a sign in our very own Common Ground Caf.

Have we so quickly forgotten the meaning of the word terror? The goal of the Israeli offensive is to eliminate the ability of terrorist groups to target Israeli civilians by capturing the terrorist’s weapons and destroying their bomb-making capability. The deaths of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire of Israeli operations are tragic, but these deaths are almost always a result of the pursuit of those who would kill even more Israelis.

This is not called terror, but defending one’s country.

Terror means strapping on dynamite and blowing up innocent civilians shopping in a supermarket or participating in a Passover seder. Terror means slamming planes into tall buildings. One would think that Americans would pick up on this type of distortion, but by using the evocative language of human rights, pro-Palestinian groups have stirred up support for their cause.

There is, however, an antidote to this sticky web of rhetoric found in the facts rooted in history.

One way in which the Palestinians have ignored history is by holding the Israeli settlements as the cause of the Intifada (Palestinian uprising), thereby justifying their violence. What the Palestinians don’t tell us is that before there were any settlements, Arab countries declared war on Israel on three separate occasions.

The settlements were gained by Israel in a defensive war in 1967 after Egypt massed tens of thousands of troops on Israel’s southern border and blockaded Israel’s southern seaport, cutting it off from international trade.

Accompanying these acts of war, government-sponsored rallies filled the streets of Arab capitals from Damascus to Cairo and from Mecca to Amman, demanding that the Jews be pushed into the sea.

The Arab populations of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank previously ruled by Egypt and Jordan came under Israeli authority. Following their defeat, Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum and declared to Israel, “No recognition, no negotiation, no peace.”

These are the true origins of the settlements, yet through consistent propaganda, the Arabs have turned the results of their aggression against Israel into its causes.

Another myth propagated by the Arab world to level the playing field is that Israel will not give up land for peace and will not compensate its citizens for peace ? simply put, that Israel does not want peace.

How quickly they have forgotten that in exchange for recognized and secure borders, Israel uprooted thousands of its citizens and returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. How quickly they have forgotten that in exchange for recognized and secure borders, Israel makes lease payments to Jordan for land that it farms. And most importantly, how quickly they have forgotten that in 2000 former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state in 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza along with parts of Jerusalem.

Without even making a counter-offer, Palestinian Chairman Arafat flatly rejected the proposal and started the Intifada, leading his people no closer to a Palestinian state. To say that Israel has not made an effort for peace is a lie.

Fortunately for Israelis, they remember their history and they see through the lies. An overwhelming majority of Israelis support the country’s military offensive, not because they want to crush the Palestinians, but because they know, as the United States once did, that nothing justifies terror.

Even more fortunate is that the children of Israel have always been a stiff-necked people full of conviction, and their government will not give in to U.S. pressure until they have completed their mission. As Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister of housing put it, “This is a time in our history when even the arguments of our best friends are not strong enough in comparison with reality.”

Strosberg can be reached at jstrosberg@campustimes.org.



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