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Columbia Spectator Staff

The common presumption among some members of the Columbia community and in certain sectors of the mainstream media seems to be that an Arab is violent until proven otherwise. Catering to the ignorance of some, we comply and offer these contextualizations of the weekend's events as a way to acquit ourselves of this burden of proof.

The pictures and reports of the desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus might give some people the idea that Palestinians are somehow inherently aggressive or disrespectful of other faiths. Others may contend that these occurrences should come as no surprise and that their probability justifies Israeli presence at these sites.

The notion of intrinsic Arab animosity towards all things Jewish, predating and justifying Israeli protection of holy places, does not hold up to historical scrutiny. If Arabs had always wanted to destroy Joseph's Tomb, or any other Jewish sacred site in historical Palestine, for that matter, they had ample opportunity to do so over many centuries.

The very fact that these sites have survived proves Arab and Muslim respect for other faiths. The desecration of Joseph's Tomb following the evacuation of Israeli troops therefrom, far from being meant as an attack on Judaism per se, was intended to prevent the site's renewed use by Israel as a pretense for the occupation of Nablus. While that may constitute a partial explanation, in no way does it excuse an action execrable not only to Jews, but also to Muslims and Christians who recognize the shrine's sanctity.

That we don't intellectually bend over backwards to justify the inexcusable may prove unsettling to LionPAC. Frank criticism of one's own "side" does not fit into their openly proclaimed commitment to unconditionally defend Israel. While Israeli soldiers, using live ammunition, missiles and helicopter gunships, killed over 90 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, a third of them under the age of 16, and wounded thousands, LionPAC denounced Turath's violent rhetoric and its misleading protests on campus.

We were shocked to see fellow students actually spit at us as they walked by the sundial, one going so far as to loudly voice her hope of seeing more Arabs killed. How a series of silent protests to mourn the excessive use of force against civilians constitutes violent rhetoric eludes us, but we will take the time to address the more common arguments put forth by the apologists of Israeli brutality, in line with our aforementioned duty to state the obvious.

The most spurious contention is that Israel is acting in self-defense, protecting its citizens against Arab aggression. The fact that Israel has no internationally recognized right to be there in the first place is conveniently omitted, and never mind that the citizens in question happen to be illegal settlers armed to the teeth by the Israeli military and heavily subsidized by their government. International law and overwhelming firepower are insignificant details, it seems.

Equally irrelevant to Zionist cheerleaders is the sequence of events. Palestinians should be blamed, even if the spark that set off the unrest was Ariel Sharon's raid on the Haram Al-Sharif, with an escort of 300 armed men who proceeded to charge protesters, causing them to pick up stones. Palestinians ought to be held responsible for the violence, even if Israeli soldiers are doing most of the shooting and Arabs are doing most of the dying. More moderate praise-singers (read: not Hillary Clinton or Rick Lazio) argue that both sides are equally to blame, regardless of the disproportionately Palestinian death toll, stemming from the disparity of means favoring Israel and the impunity with which it can trample internationally recognized Arab rights.

However, to the probable surprise of our detractors, we will blame both sides for the current violence. Indeed, both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are responsible. To this list of culprits we add the United States. All three are guilty of endorsing a process that has consistently eschewed the grievances at the heart of the Arab-Zionist conflict, such as refugees, and has contributed to the deterioration of the living conditions of most Palestinians.

If anything, the recent unrest reveals the extent of the Palestinians' dissatisfaction with the Oslo process and with the shortcomings of their unelected representative, Yasser Arafat. While it is unfortunate that we must keep writing articles denouncing patent injustices, we were comforted by the turnout at the protests this past week.

People of African, American, Asian, European, Jewish, and Israeli origin stood among Arabs and Muslims, decrying Israeli atrocities. Even the U.N. Security Council managed to pass a resolution condemning Israel's excessive use of force against civilians.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak issued an ultimatum calling on Palestinians to cease acting up lest he use all the means at Israel's disposal, raising the disturbing inference that the horror of the past ten days fit his definition of restraint...