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Examining the US double standard on which violence is terrorism

Email to NPR, 3/05/02:
National Public Radio reports daily include descriptions of Israeli violence against Palestinians as "self defense," even when the casualties are women, children, unarmed civilians, and the action includes home and food crop demolitions and imprisonment by travel restrictions.

On the other hand, descriptions of Palestinian violence invariably portray the acts as "terrorism", even when the casualties are Israeli military forces enforcing the illegal occupation of Gaza, The West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Self defense is not presented as an option for Palestinians, no matter how brutal the Israeli attacks.

Please explain this double standard in the US media and the official Bush administration's classification of Palestinian actions as terrorism. The following article from the British paper The Guardian is an example of Israel's "self defense":

Excerpted from the British paper: The Guardian

The school run on a sunny day, but a tank shell found them in the wrong place at the wrong time

Suzanne Goldenberg in Ramallah

Tuesday March 5, 2002,2763,662080,00.html

The Pokemon CD was intact, and that was nearly all that remained of Bushra Abu Kweik and her three children after an Israeli tank shell ripped through the roof of their car during the afternoon school run.

Two other children in a passing white Subaru were also killed by the Israeli shell, the deadliest single episode on a day in which 17 Palestinians were killed as Israel adopted a campaign of "continuous military pressure" against West Bank and Gaza militants.

Few details were available yesterday on the latest strategy of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to crush Palestinian militants. But as Israel emerged from one of its bloodiest weekends of the 17-month uprising, there was increasing talk of war. The horror of Saturday night's attack by a suicide bomber in a crowd of mothers and children has had a huge psychological impact. "We are in a war against a very cruel enemy," Mr Sharon told the Knesset, or parliament, yesterday. "We are in a war for our home, and we will win."

Hours earlier, Israeli tanks thundered into the Jenin refugee camp - the second assault on the warren of cinder block houses in a week - and in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. In Jenin, the soldiers fired on an ambulance, killing a doctor who heads the local branch of the Red Crescent Society and three medics, Palestinian human rights officials said. In addition, they said, two children were shot dead, and an elderly woman was killed in her home by a tank shell. Three Palestinians were killed in Rafah.

The shell that arced through a glorious blue sky towards Ramallah's Abu Shusha street was fired from the illegal Jewish settlement of Psagot. The rows of red-topped houses are clearly visible from this opposing hilltop, barely two kilometres away, and it seemed all but impossible yesterday that the Israeli soldiers would have failed to spot the fluttering white headscarf of Ms Abu Kweik, or those of her two daughters, as she eased her green Mitsubishi truck down the hill towards her home, driving in the direction of Psagot.

"I heard a loud noise and ran out in the road and saw pieces of human flesh. A man was holding three children in his arms. They were all covered in blood," said Najwa Itaiwi, who lives a few yards from the scene of the attack. "He was screaming 'look at my children. Where are the other two?' "

There was nothing recognisably human left in the other vehicle, in which Bushra Abu Kweik was driving daughters, Aziza, 13, Bara, 12, and son, Mohammed, 10, home from school. Children's textbooks, wrapped in covers showing Winnie the Pooh and other Disney characters were stacked on the bonnet of the wreck. In the last page of one notebook, a child's hand had scrawled over and over: "I love you very much".

The Israeli army said yesterday that it killed the four members of the Abu Kweik family and the two other children riding in a white Subaru - boys aged four and 15 - by mistake. Although Bushra's husband, Hussein, is a prominent Hamas figure in Ramallah, where he runs a local charity, the army said he was not a target for assassination. It claimed instead that it had been aiming at a vehicle carrying armed Palestinian policemen. The defence minister, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, expressed his regret.

However, Mr Abu Kweik's anger at the loss of three of his five children was not appeased as he arrived at a memorial meeting in a municipal hall, wearing a baseball cap in the green Hamas colours. "It was premeditated murder. Sharon has run out of all other options of killing so he went after women and children," he said. "I would like to tell the Israeli people: Sharon is cheating you, he is laughing at you, because he is going to throw you into a swamp of blood."

Inside the crowded hall, passions were running equally high. Eighteen months into a savage cycle of attack and retaliation, people here were utterly convinced that the army meant to kill Mr Abu Kweik's children as revenge for the killing of five Jewish children in the suicide attack on an ultra-orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem at the weekend.

"All the shelling of Palestinian Authority buildings did not stop the intifada, and Sharon knows that even if he targets activists, it is very difficult to find them. Therefore he is targeting children to put pressure on the activists," said one mourner. "From this day, all of us will think of making suicide in Israel."

Last night Palestinian officials said Israeli helicopters fired missiles inside Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah. He was reported to be unhurt.

Supporters of the prime minister said Mr Sharon plans to put ever greater pressure on the Palestinians until they break. "When they decide that they've had enough of military operations and they want to talk, we'll be happy to talk to them. Until then, though, we are at war," the justice minister, Meir Sheetrit, said.

Yesterday, Mr Sharon's far-right cabinet allies continued their clamour for a reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and for Israel to broaden its bombardments of the Palestinians by targeting markets and shopping centres.

However, moderates advanced a different view, arguing that the tough military action of the last few weeks had only served to invite more attacks.

"Once he had big pretensions, Sharon. He wanted to bring peace and security. Today he makes do with proving that the Israeli army, one of the best armies in the world, can occupy a refugee camp," said a front page commentary in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper.