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Dear Sir/Madam,

Please consider this for editorial submission. It is in response to Schochet's column that appeared in the October 18 edition of the YDN. The Arab population of New Haven read with horror and disgust his stereotypical and racist comments, and is eager to see our perspective printed in your paper. You can reach me at ##########, or ##############

With much appreciation,
Fadia Rafeedie

By Fadia Issam Rafeedie, Yale Law School '03

I cannot but find Schochet's statement that "there's a dignified, noble, rich and honorable culture hidden [sic] somewhere in today's Arab world" a racist one. As a Palestinian and a human being with respect for my culture, I take issue with the Yale Daily News for allowing a hateful statement like that, in reference to over 250 million people, to slither itself into an article that pretends to be about the innocent Americans who died on the U.S.S. Cole.

Schochet's editorial was a vessel of empty rhetoric written with an agenda to demonize Arab civilization in the name of protecting the human rights of Americans and Jews. Unable and unwilling to give voice to the marginalized Arab perspective, Schochet instead erroneously equates Islam with violence and Palestinian with terrorist, offering little substance and no balance. What he strategically leaves out - the historical context within which the latest Arab actions find expression, the asymmetry of power at work in the region, the motivations of the militant freedom fighters, and the criminal role of the United States government and the Zionist leadership in Palestine -- I will outline here.

While anyone hates to see innocent people die, I have to say that the USS Cole's mission was not an innocent one. On its way to Iraq, the ship meant to continue the imposition of the U.S.-led embargo there, which has killed an average of 5,000 Iraqi children every single month for the last 10 years.

A policy of genocide that no respectable leader in this country's government can defend, the embargo is not meant to promote democracy in the region but to destroy it. For 10 years, peaceful activists have fought on behalf of Iraq and tried to reason with the iron fist of the New World Order that pounds on them, to no avail. UN officials have thrown their hands up in despair, resigning their positions and resigning to the fact that moral considerations do not guide U.S. foreign policy in the region -- colonial aims do. The suicide mission was an act of desperate frustration on behalf of a people who have not a "penchant for violence," as our Orientalist columnist would have us believe, but a desire to relieve human suffering.

More significantly, the description of this incident as "terrorist" is contrary even to our own US State Department definition of terrorism which excludes acts against military targets in areas of conflict. As for the Israeli soldiers that a crowd of Palestinians killed in Ramallah last week, let's get our facts straight. These men, dressed as Arabs and part of an Israeli undercover unit of trained assassins, planted themselves in a funeral march carrying guns with silencers. Their mission was to kill, covertly and quietly, Palestinian civilians living in an autonomous region where the Israeli military was not supposed to be in the first place. Furthermore, there was no way, as Schochet would have us believe, that the soldiers made a "wrong turn." I know Ramallah well. It would have taken a wrong left turn, 4 traffic lights, a right turn and a good 3 km drive to the police station to get to their destination.

These men belonged to the same terrorist unit of the Israeli army who in 1973 killed in cold blood my mother's cousin, Kamal Naser, a nationalistic poet who had never even picked up a gun. Palestinians have dealt daily, for over half a century, with a sophisticated, cruel! enemy; they respond with whatever defenses are available to them, as any oppressed people would. (Incidentally, 8 Palestinians only suspected of being involved in the incident have just been kidnapped from Ramallah by similar undercover agents. They will likely suffer severe torture without trial, or even death, as many Palestinians do in Zionist prison chambers. This denial of due process is banned by international law, as is the collective punishment of Palestinian cities by Israeli gunship helicopter attacks.)

Now, about "mob violence." Before the soldiers were executed in Ramallah, hordes of illegal Jewish settlers kidnapped a 49-year-old farmer and father of 5, Issam Judeh Hamad, near my family's village last week. They beat and tortured him using using hot irons and smashed his skull to pieces before dumping his mutilated body in village fields. Armed and dangerous, these settler-invaders operate with full sanction by the Israeli government to attack Arab villages. They have fantastic role models. The Israeli Defense Force -- a euphemistic name for what is, in reality, a machine of terror financed by over 3 billion U.S. dollars annually -- responds to stone-carrying Palestinian youth with live ammunition, anti-tank missiles, Apache attack helicopters, and rubber-coated metal bullets. It is a gross misrepresentation of the facts to assume that the Palestinian people, an occupied people, a people with the largest and oldest refugee population in the world thanks to the destruct! ion of over 415 villages at the Zionist state's inception, can be blamed for fighting back -- usually just with stones and their minds -- the third strongest military in the world.

Schochet says "terrorism is by nature a cowardly act." Who are the cowards here? Who are the terrorists? How, if Schochet's objective is to condemn violence, can he make a barbarically aloof occlusion of the fact that in the past two weeks, we have witnessed the Zionist military's murder of over 100 Palestinian civilians? Why do we see elaborate reports of the funerals of two soldiers but hear nothing, for example, about 18-month old Sara, a baby shot and killed by settlers' machine guns while sitting in her father's car? Why was there no mention of the U.N. investigative report that about 40 percent of an estimated 2,000 to 3,700 Palestinians wounded by Israeli occupation forces were under age 18 and that at least half of the injuries resulted from the use of live ammunition?

This is not an exercise in justifying violence with violence. It is an attempt to locate the current uprising within the historical and material context that created it. Mine is not a message that beseeches the United States to step in to help; it says loud and clear that the U.S. government, by funding the aggression, contributes to the problem and is not by any means an "honest broker." This country's role in the region has been to secure Israeli interests and make Palestinians think they are negotiating for their freedom when they are actually just reduced to negotiating the terms of their imprisonment. The Palestinian people, after years of disillusionment, understand this well.

The colonial mentality that Schochet and the U.S! employ when they tell Arafat to "control, control, control" his people mistakes the Palestinian struggle for an "on-off" switch without consciousness, popular will, or legitimacy, when indeed it embodies all three of these. Arabs of Christian and Muslim faith are victims of Zionist aggression, and they resist as all colonized people would. This is not a religious message; it's an anti-colonial one. Schochter would have a much harder time contending with it on that level.

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