Paying for the Bullet

I HAVE nothing against Arabs, but a lot of them seem to hate me. Not as an individual, but just as an American. I think I understand why.

An eight-year-old Arab boy was shot the other day. He died at the hospital. I paid for the bullet that killed him.

It happened in Nablus, on the West Bank, the territory claimed and occupied by Israel. Some schoolchildren threw stones at a jeep driven by Israeli soldiers, who opened fire.

The boy was hit in the chest. One witness said he wasn’t among those throwing stones and was about a hundred yards from the jeep. The Israelis say the kids were throwing unspecified “explosive devices.” So the eight-year-old was killed in self-defense.

Maybe this was a horrible accident. But I don’t think so. These “accidents” happen too often. The Israelis have shot more than a few children. It’s getting to be a habit. It no longer shocks.

And Americans like me pay for the bullets. The Arabs know this. That’s why some of them dislike Americans. All I can say is that I regret it and I wish I had a choice. A mere taxpayer has no choice.

Maybe the Arabs think that even taxpayers should consult their consciences — or at least their interests. But few Americans are disturbed by these killings. They make no connections. When Arabs retaliate against American targets, Americans say, “Why do they hate us? It must be because we’re free.”

But if we were really free, we could refuse, as individuals, to support these outrages. Yes, Arab murders of Israeli children are horrible too, but at least we aren’t forced to pay for those murders. Paying for the murder of Arab children is now part of what it means to be an American. I figure that my share of American aid to Israel has bought quite a few bullets for Israeli soldiers by now.

One of those soldiers looked through his sight, took aim at a little boy’s chest, and squeezed the trigger. What kind of man could even bear to do that? I don’t know, but Israel seems to produce quite a few of them. One such man is now Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon. So were several of his predecessors.

Abba Eban died the other day. I hadn’t realized he was still alive. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Eban spoke for Israel at the United Nations with an eloquence nobody who heard him will ever forget. He convinced millions of us that Israel was a beleaguered island of civilization in a savage part of the world. Terrorism meant Arab terrorism, almost by definition.

That was my view for 15 years. It took Israel’s terrifying bombing of Beirut in 1982 to change my mind. That was Ariel Sharon’s finest hour, so to speak. It convinced even many American Jews that Abba Eban’s Israel no longer existed, if it ever had.

Put it this way. It’s very hard to imagine Abba Eban shooting a child. It isn’t hard at all to imagine Sharon doing it. The only question is how many times he has actually done it.

You might think that, just from the standpoint of public relations, Sharon would tell his soldiers to be a little more careful. And you might think this country’s Israel lobby would suggest that he try a little more of the Eban approach.

But during the 1967 war, Israelis like Sharon learned that they could get away with anything, including killing American sailors. If American aid not only continued but increased after the Israelis murdered Americans, Sharon can be sure it won’t stop because they kill Arab children.

The Arabs have noticed. And they have drawn conclusions not only about Israel, but about Americans. They must find American preaching about democracy and human rights a little annoying.

How often Americans say of foreign races, “Those people only understand one thing: force.” Might certain foreigners have some reason to say those words about Americans?

The United States is on the verge of war for the alleged purpose of making sure Saddam Hussein never gets “weapons of mass destruction.” Ariel Sharon already has those weapons, and in abundance. The Arabs know this too.

American Middle Eastern policy seems based on the assumption that the Arabs won’t notice the obvious. But if the murder of their children doesn’t shock us, neither should their hatred.

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