Last Sunday, I logged onto AOL to see if I could find any news on the crisis in the Middle East. There, I found a photo gallery and saw a sequence of photos in which a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Rami Aldura, and his father, Jamal -- who tried everything he could to protect his son -- were shot by Israeli troops. I write this as an appeal to the University community to speak out against this atrocity and the scores of others that are being committed this very minute in the Holy Land. Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth with weapons of war, are shooting and killing innocent Palestinian civilians who are defending their territory with mere pebbles and stones. These are not two forces at conflict, or two armies exchanging fire -- this is rock versus rifle. My purpose is to urge students and faculty to speak out in condemnation of such brutality. Arab and Israeli American, Muslim, Christian and Jew should all stand united against this type of terror. Nearly 90 people -- including over a dozen children -- have been killed already, with almost 2,000 wounded, and those numbers are rising. But I don't want you to read these numbers as a statistic. You have to imagine the actual suffering taking place, a father losing a son, a wife losing a husband, a beautiful girl losing an eye. This is what is happening and we are doing nothing to help. Last Friday, the Penn Arab Student Society held a vigil to mourn the deceased. Members put up signs and pictures of the massacres -- which you are not seeing on TV -- lit candles and placed white roses on the ground in remembrance. A few news stations sent cameramen to cover the event, and as they began recording, two angry pro-Israel students charged into the vigil, shouting about how the fault lay with the Palestinians, how the Arabs are the instigators and how it was the Israelis who are committed to peace. While these statements are completely false -- and I am supported by a U.N. Security Council resolution when I say that -- the problem was not in what those students said. They are of course entitled to their opinions. The problem was the timing of their tirade. We were not there expressing our political views; we were there for humanitarian reasons. We were there to point out to the Penn community the injustices and human rights abuses that were taking place. We were there to mourn our dead. We have both the right and the obligation as Arab-American students to do just that, and I personally think that we deserved the respect to accomplish those tasks, to pay our respects, in peace. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has issued Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat an ultimatum: End the violence or the "restraint" that Israel has shown will be over and the peace process dead. What the Israeli government seems to overlook is that Yasser Arafat is not a commander. He is not the leader of any army, and the protesters are not troops. They are civilians who have been oppressed, killed and alienated in their native land. They are a people whose frustrations have reached a boiling point and who refuse to watch quietly as their friends and family are killed. Mr. Barak is in charge of one of the most powerful, highly organized military forces in the world, and he has the power to give such a command. He can tell his troops to stop shooting, and he can pull back his tanks and rockets from the occupied territories. Unless you are willing to call rock-hurling men and women, boys and girls, from the ages of 10 to 60, soldiers, then it is clear that the responsibility in ending the violence lies with the Israelis. The harsh language of ultimatums does nothing more than escalate the violence. We are college students, coming from diverse backgrounds and religions, having various political, economic and social views, but when innocent people's lives are in danger -- when a child is forced to look down the barrel of a gun for having a stone in his hand -- surely then we must band together and denounce such a violation of human rights. I watched frame by frame as a father tried to protect his son, only to watch him die. Before Jamal Aldura was shot, he looked toward the camera, pleading for help. Let us not leave this man's son to have died in vain. Let us raise our voices in outrage and protect the innocent. Our words are much better protection against a soldier's assault rifle than any child's stone.Comments powered by Disqus
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