Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hebron orphanage

Punitive measures against orphans will never win the hearts and minds of the Palestinians, and will only strengthen the extremists

By Seth Freedman
The Guardian

"Supporters of the Israeli authorities love to blame the country's poor reputation as being a result of woeful PR, believing that all that is required to redress the balance is a slick hasbara campaign. However, given the harsh reality of the occupation, to suggest that a superficial gloss job would do the trick is to totally miss the wood for the trees.

I found as much on Sunday, when I went to Hebron as a guest of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), who are desperate to highlight the plight of a Palestinian orphanage threatened with closure by the IDF. For nearly a month, the scores of children have been living with a sword of Damocles over their heads, after the army issued an eviction order, claiming that the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) - which runs the orphanage - is a front for Hamas.......

And his scepticism is now being recreated among the next generation, namely the orphans whose lives are being turned upside down by the army's actions. "Our kids are terrified when the soldiers come," said Rasheed, "and all they ask is 'why?'." One 13-year-old student in the boys' orphanage told us: "This is my home - if they come to shut us down, I won't leave." His predicament, as well as his youthful defiance, should serve as a warning to the Israeli authorities as to what really causes animosity towards Israel from the Palestinian population.

As I wrote in Occupation Breeds Terror, punitive measures such as the orphanage eviction will never win the hearts and minds of the Palestinians, and will only serve to strengthen the extremists, who will point to such actions as proof that the Israelis couldn't care less about the wellbeing of the Palestinian people. Similarly, when Israel's supporters think it's all about PR, they should look behind the headlines and see whether the source of all the smoke is actually the ever-smouldering fire in the West Bank and Gaza.

Until they do, the Israeli authorities will continue to get away with their sadistic treatment, and the pressure will be ratcheted up another notch on the Palestinian street. Which will only bring more death, more misery, and more retaliation on both sides - leaving the likes of CPT to wonder how they can ever achieve their goal of bringing peace to a region that so desperately cries out for it. "

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