Time for Mideast Policy based on Peace and Justice for All
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.
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, one administration after another has kowtowed to the dictates of America's pro-Israel lobby. The tragic results of this one-sided policy can be witnessed every day in the shattered lives of ordinary people throughout the region.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell once commented about Iraq that if we break it we own it, implying long-term occupation of a sovereign country. We made a mess of Iraq, and now we want to attempt the same failed experiment in Lebanon.
Current Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice's comment that these are the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East is just as bizarre as it sounds. 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.
Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure and the intentional targeting of population centers with artillery-fired cluster munitions, phosphorous bombs and "bunker busters" clearly goes beyond self-defense. Despite these apparent breaches of international and U.S. law, our government remains silent.
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 resolution 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.
People of all faiths, races and national origins have the inalienable right to live in peace, freedom and dignity. This timeless moral value ought to guide American policy in the Middle East. Otherwise, once again, we will be complicit in plunging the Middle East into a multigenerational conflict.
The Bush administration can take some positive steps to bring us all closer to peace with justice in the Middle East.
Call for immediate and unconditional ceasefires in Lebanon and Gaza. This will not only facilitate the evacuation of the thousands of American trapped in Lebanon, it will also allow humanitarian aid to reach innocent victims of this disaster.
Cancel the unconscionable expedited delivery of bombs to Israel.
Implement all relevant UN resolutions without picking and choosing those we like and those we wish to ignore.
Seek the immediate establishment of a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state.
Send former Presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter to mediate not just ceasefires and delivery of humanitarian aid, but to also bring all parties to the negotiating table.
God tells us in the Quran, Islam's revealed text: "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)." (Quran 49:13)
Driven by the convictions of our faith and convinced of our rights and obligations as American citizens, we will do whatever we can to achieve a just resolution to this long-standing conflict.
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.
Dr. Maher Hathout is a Senior Advisor for Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Dr. Agha Saeed is the Chairman of American-Muslim Task Force (AMT)
Dr. Parvez Ahmed is the Chairman of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
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