IT'S TIME FOR A PEACE AND JUSTICE POLICY IN THE MIDEAST
by Parvez Ahemed
American Reporter Correspondent
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians are being killed. The civilian infrastructures of both areas are being systematically destroyed. And what is our nation's response? We refuse to call for a cease-fire, and instead expedite the shipment of bombs to Israel so that they are better able to carry out their brutal attacks.
As American Muslim leaders we are asked to be a bridge between America and the Muslim world. We are asked to speak out in favor of moderation and condemn extremism among Muslims. We gladly accept this role and have consistently done both. To continue to be effective in our role, we have no less of a duty to speak out for better policies at home. It is hard to improve America's image in the Muslim world when U.S.-made weapons kill civilians and our officials stay silent.
People of all faiths, races and national origins have the inalienable right to live in peace, freedom and dignity. A Lebanese or Palestinian life is no less valuable than that of an Israeli. Yet when confronted with a choice in determining America's course of action in the Middle East, the Bush Administration is decidedly one-sided. As a result the longest-running occupation in the world continues with our support and with no signs of an end.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell once commented about Iraq that if we break it, we own it. We made a mess of Iraq, and now we want to attempt the same failed experiment in Lebanon. Once again, our policy seems to be that we have to destroy a village in order to save it.
Many in the international community, including the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, view Israel's actions as possible war crimes. A number of legal experts say Israel is also in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which requires that foreign governments receiving American weaponry use it solely for internal security and legitimate self-defense.
More than 600,000 Lebanese refugees have been forced to flee their homes as Israel's war machine rains death and destruction from the sea, land and sky. Intentionally uprooting civilian populations to achieve political goals constitutes state-sponsored terrorism that deserves condemnation, not diplomatic cover.
American politicians take every opportunity to speak out in support of Israeli rights and Israel's national security, yet they seem content to leave the Palestinians and Lebanese with neither rights nor security.
The right of self-defense is not limited to Israel. The UN Charter, as well as a number of UN resolutions including the UN General Assembly Resolution 31/34 of 1976, affirm the inalienable right of "Palestinian People and of all peoples" to seek liberation from "foreign domination and alien subjugation."
Armed conflicts are not without rules of engagement. The concept of proportionality in all armed actions is mandated by the Geneva Conventions. The International Red Cross, the recognized guardian of those conventions, says that Israeli attacks on Lebanon violate this important principle.
It is not too late for the Bush administration to take some positive steps to bring us all closer to peace with justice in the Middle East:
The Quran states: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another (not that you may despise each other)."
Driven by the convictions of our faith and convinced of our rights and obligations as American citizens, we will continue to be a voice for moderation and balance in our nation's policies, just as we ask from the Muslim world.
The late Pope John Paul II had perceptively reminded us all: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness." As Americans, we extend a hand to help our nation defend its interests and improve its image worldwide. There is no better time than the present to begin this historic task.
Parvez Ahmed is Chairman of Board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).