Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the value of 2500 lives

On the occasion of Osama bin Laden's death, it's worth considering the value of life and how the loss of life is presented.

On 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Center resulted in about 2500 lives being lost. In the following weeks, articles about those who were killed dominated the newspapers. The New York Times printed thumbnail pictures of everyone along with short biographies and the United States went all-out to award the families of the deceased compensation even if they had life insurance. Those who did the killing were studied as portraits in insanity; crazed terrorists and religious fanatics. There was no doubt the lives of the innocents were precious and a great deal of attention was given to finding out how it happened.

by contrast...

From the year 2000 to the end of 2009, over 2500 (2969) Palestinians who were unarmed and not involved in hostilities were killed by Israelis according to the Israeli human rights NGO, B'tselem. Though it is possible that some of the incidents made it to the American press, it's safe to say that they did not receive much attention and most likely no names of the individuals killed were mentioned. For almost all of these victims there would be no picture or biography. Though it is possible that some of the families of those killed received some compensation from Israel, the practice is extremely rare.

In 2000, the Israeli Defense Forces announced that, unless there were special circumstances, there would be no investigation of Palestinian civilian deaths as a result of IDF action. Only just this year (2011) has the IDF agreed to investigate incidents and only because of the prodding of B'tselem. Though Israel received about $3 billion a year in military hardware between 2000 and 2009 (it gets more now) some of which was used to kill some of these Palestinians, there was never a thought of holding Israel responsible for the use of the weapons. In fact, the United States exempts Israel from the duty to report how foreign aid money is spent, a requirement for all other recipients.

If you are interested in what weapons were used to kill these Palestinians, that information is available from the Federation of American Scientists or presented in a slide show here.

The United States is rightly outraged at the attack on the WTC on 9/11. It is completely silent on the ongoing deaths of Palestinians. What is a human life worth? If you were an American at the WTC on 9/11 the value is huge. If you were a Palestinian at any time over the past 60 years, it is essentially nil.

American opinion of the Palestinians has been low over the years and is not changed by any events. American opinion of Israelis has risen in recent years regardless of the harshness of their treatment of Palestinians and even of the full scale military assault of late 2009, Operation Cast Lead. In America, Israel's public image is literally bulletproof, no matter how many bullets or other weapons it unleashes, it is admired as indicated by the Gallup poll results shown below (more info here). Is there any doubt why Palestinians are frustrated with America as the "peace broker"?

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