Recently, U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a longtime ally of the state of Israel, joined protesters at Vieques, Puerto Rico,
demanding the military end the practice bombings there.
The fact that a U.S. Congressman was among those protesting the practice bombings, which have taken place for many decades, gave the protesters a high level of media coverage.
It also helped that the protesters were Puerto Rican and not Palestinian. The truth is, it often does make a difference in media coverage.
Gutierrez made many accusations including one that struck a chord we me, a Palestinian American concerned about the excessive use of military force by the Israelis against Palestinian civilians.
The Congressman repeated the allegations made by many Puerto Rican leaders who want the U.S. Military to leave Vieques Island. Congressman Gutierrez said that the noise and chemicals from the blasts have contributed to higher levels of cancer and other illnesses among the Puerto Rican residents of this tiny island just outside of Puerto Rico.
Wow! I thought. Someone who is willing to stand up and say what no one else wants to believe. That the use of certain military weapons in regions inhabited by civilians like Vieques does pose a serious health risk.
What is it so surprising?
Well, when Suha Arafat, the wife of President Arafat dared to speak out publicly against the Israeli use of tear gas and Uranium tipped bullets and cannons, the world came down on her quickly and brutally.
Led by Israel and the Western news media commentators, Mrs. Arafat's contention were harshly denounced. They were shocked by her audacity, her lack of "authority" on such issues, and the most grievously, that she would imply that Israeli would do something that might jeopardize the health and well-being of the Palestinian civilians.
The truth is that Israel's excessive use of tear gas against Palestinian civilians does pose a serious health hazard that is poisoning the atmosphere and the water resources of the Arab areas.
It was Mrs. Arafat's use of the term "poisonous" that really set the pro-Israeli lobby to a titter.
But Uranium tipped weapons have been used. Tear gas, manufactured in the United States, is frequently dropped on the heads of protesters, not just around them. This constant use of such weapons does cause a health hazard to the civilian population.
And, it is poisonous.
But of course, for a country like Israel that has, in the past eight months of this latest Intifadah (or Palestinian rebellion), killed some 700 civilians, why should they even bother to complain when someone says they are doing things that might, in years to come, cause serious health deformities among civilians?
Mrs. Arafat, you do know more than the rest of them and all of Israel's media apologists. Their actions are poisoning the region.
The problem is, when it comes to the health and well being of Palestinians, no one in the media really seems to care.
Ray Hanania is coordinator of the Chicago Association of Arab Journalists and Communicators and freelance journalist.
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