Outrage is an apt word for current Arab and Muslim sentiment toward Israel and toward American policy in the Middle East. Muslim and Christian Arabs alike have expressed mounting frustration with what they see as the Clinton administration's unwillingness to demand an end to Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians.
American Muslims and Christians sympathetic to the Palestinians say frustration on the streets of Gaza and Ramallah and other cities in the occupied territories has risen to a new level. They say there is nothing left to lose. Not even peace.
In order for any kind of peace process to be reinvigorated American Muslims and Arab-American Christians are calling on the American government to stop sending military and economic aid to Israel. Military aid alone amounts to approximately $5 million a day.
"I believe for the peace process to continue, Israeli tanks and rockets, all made in the U.S. with our tax money, should be withdrawn from the occupied territory and from all Islamic and Christian holy places," said Ghazi Khankan of the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), New York. Military hardware intimidates Palestinian civilians, he asserted, driving them to defend themselves with stones and slingshots.
"The media should not compare as equal the heavily armed Israeli militia with unarmed civilian demonstrators," Khankan went on to say, voicing the opinion of many Muslims who feel media coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict is not even-handed.
"Israel has been relying on unlimited and unconditional moral, political, and financial support from the United States," said Nihad Awad of CAIR. "That has given Israel permission to do what it pleases. The outcome is a bad reputation to the United States, a bad image in the Arab and Muslim world, and has not served the interest of the U.S."
Many supporters of Palestine feel the situation now is more hopeless than ever. Robert Moore, a leading member of the Coalition for Good Government, pointed out that "Israel can carry out those types of actions in response to our coming to the defense of our holy sites, and the reaction is that the aggressor should be appeased. You can never appease an aggressor!"
Moore also expressed disappointment that American "peaceniks" have not come out in support of Palestinian victims in the current conflict.
Repeatedly, American Muslims and Arab-American Christians and Muslims say the road to peace is through Washington, D.C., and the termination of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel. They demand that money and favoritism freeze.
"We have the leverage," said Ghazi Khankan. "Economic, military, and political leverage to solve the problem. Stop sending military equipment, and Israel will realize it has to make peace. But as long as Israel feels it has the upper hand and is supported by the U.S., it will continue being arrogant and will steal more land from Christian and Muslim Palestinians."
"I don't really see light at the end of the tunnel," said George Milhelm of Hempstead. I don't see a Palestinian state with freedom and self-determination. I fear we will always be under the fist of Israel."
Dr. Raana Akbar, an allergist in Saginaw, Michigan, believes the peace process as it existed is extinct. She feels a new foundation must be laid in order to make progress. "Obviously, what we are looking at is dead," said Dr. Akbar, a native of Pakistan. "If the Israelis are not willing to accommodate the religious feelings of the Palestinian people, there cannot be peace in that area. The Palestinians will die rather than relinquish the Haram al-Sharif. Perhaps a mandate for a neutral authority over Jerusalem would be acceptable. But Israeli control will never be acceptable."
"We condemn the killing of any human being," said ICLI's Ghazi Khankan. "We believe in due process. We also disapprove strongly of those who have exploded the USS Cole at Aden, and those who have desecrated a synagogue in the Bronx," he said. But until justice becomes a pre-condition for peace, American Muslims and Arab-American Christians see an extended and expanded intifada into the future.