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Thursday, July 17, 2003

Matt Finberg in today's Colorado Daily

Letters: Israel takes extreme measures to protect civil rights of Palestinians
I recently returned from a 10-day tour of Israel for lawyers sponsored by Shurat Hadin. Shurat Hadin is an Israeli law center which brings civil suits against terrorist organizations and their sponsors, seeking compensation for victims of terror from funds which would otherwise be sent to the terrorist death squads (see www.israellawcenter.org).

I and the other members of the group were overwhelmed by the painstaking and often painful (deadly) steps the Israeli judiciary, military, and police take in order to uphold personal liberties and dignity of those who seek to harm Israelis and Americans in Israel, and eliminate Jews from the Land of Israel. It is well accepted by most Americans that it is preferable for 10 criminals to go free because of "due process" glitches than for one innocent person to be convicted.

Sadly, in Israel this has been extended to the policy that it is better to suffer a few deaths from terror attacks than to deprive the residents of Jenin, Ramallah, and other hosts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and their ilk of human dignity or basic civil rights. We were repeatedly told by people such as Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Barak, members of the Kinesset, and senior intelligence and police officers that these are the prices we must pay for Democracy, we must have faith and be patient with the process, and we must be better than our murderers.

Although I disagree with their philosophies (nowhere in my bible does it say that I should love my murderer as myself), I saw a face of Israel which is too often distorted or buried in the media. The Arab population known as the Palestinians were murdered and exiled by most of the 23 Moslem nations of the world over the past 50 years without a word of criticism from Western Nations or media. Ask any Palestinian who is free and willing to speak the truth and he will tell you that the Palestinian people are no different in origin or culture from the Lebanese, Syrians, and Jordanians, and that not one of them, including Arafat (born in Egypt), demanded a homeland when the West Bank was occupied by Jordan from 1948-67 and Gaza by Egypt for an even longer period.

In fact, Egypt refused to accept dominion over Gaza when Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula as part of their peace treaty. Only Israel is scrutinized, and then under a distorted and very dirty lens. There are few troops in the West Bank and almost none in Gaza. Jewish villages have been created where barren land once stood in Judea and Samaria under strict government scrutiny and subject to rigorous requirements calling for respect for the land and other people living in the area. Military check points leading in and out of proven hotbeds of terrorism are operated with civility and common courtesy. House to house searches require search warrants absent active combat initiated by the residents, and both the police and Justice Barak confirmed that they are subject to strict requirements and rules of conduct.

I pray more people learn the truth as did Attorney General Salazar on his recent State Attorney Generals' Mission to Israel - that the Palestinians are better treated, and their rights better protected, by the State of Israel than by any other nation in history. If workers for peace and justice are looking for a cause which does not smack of anti-Semitism and sorely needs Western help, they should focus on the outrageous occupation of Lebanon by Syria, the military presence of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon funded by Syria and Iran, the absence of freedom of expression in most of the world, and the suppression and subjugation of women by all countries in the Middle East other than Israel.

Matthew S. Finberg

Kol hakavod, Moshe!