Who Does Powell Think He's Kidding?

[Michael Freund]

Summary ... Colin Powell has got some nerve. After a week in which 13 young Israeli soldiers had been killed by Arab terrorists, who then paraded the body parts of their victims through the streets of Gaza, the US Secretary of State could find nothing better to do than to cozy up to the Arabs and criticize Israel.

Shortly after arriving in Jordan this past Saturday, Powell met with the Palestinian [sic] leadership. Afterwards, he told reporters that he was pleased to have had a "constructive talk" with Palestinian premier Ahmed Qurei, along with "my colleague Nabil Shaath and so many other of my good friends from the Palestinian Authority."

His "good friends"?

This is the same Palestinian Authority that has been waging a terrorist war against Israel since September 2000 and which is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. It is the same entity that Powell's own State Department, in its recently released report on Patterns of Global Terrorism, has linked to acts of terror against the Jewish state. And this is whom Powell considers to be his "good friends"?

Not only that, but in his remarks to the press, with a smiling Qurei standing at his side, Powell did not even bother to mention the horrific events of the preceding week. He did not see fit to condemn the Palestinians' vile desecration of Israel's dead, nor did he denounce their ongoing efforts to carry out attacks against the Jewish state.

Indeed, not once did Powell even mention the word "terrorism."

As if that weren't bad enough, Powell followed up this appalling performance with an even more shameful one the next day.

Speaking Sunday at a news conference at the World Economic Forum on Jordan's Dead Sea coast, Powell slammed Israel for demolishing Palestinian structures in Gaza that have been used to stage attacks on Israel's soldiers.

"We know that Israel has a right for self-defense," Powell said, "but the kind of action they are taking in Rafah with the destruction of Palestinian homes, we oppose. We don't think that that is productive," he added.

That Palestinian terrorists use these very same houses to attack and kill Jews doesn't seem to move Powell one whit, nor does he seem troubled by the fact that his "good friends" in the Palestinian Authority utilize the area to smuggle in weapons from Egypt. On those issues, he is strangely silent.

And yet when Israel seeks to thwart such efforts by expanding the Philadelphi Route, as the area between Rafah and the Egyptian border is known, Powell suddenly finds his voice and lambasts the Jewish state for daring to defend itself. NEEDLESS TO say, this is hardly the first time that Powell has chosen to denigrate Israel.

Two years ago, while testifying before Congress, he outrageously accused Israel of trying to solve the Mideast conflict by killing as many Palestinians as possible. "Prime Minister Sharon has to take a hard look at his policies to see whether they will work," Powell said. "If you declare war against the Palestinians thinking that you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't think that leads us anywhere" (New York Times, March 7, 2002).

In April 2001, after IDF troops entered Gaza to stop Palestinian mortar attacks against Sderot, Powell responded by rebuking Israel, saying that its actions were "excessive and disproportionate" as if there was something wrong in Israel's attempting to protect itself.

But what is truly remarkable about Powell's latest broadside over Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza is its sheer unvarnished hypocrisy. After all, it was just 15 short years ago that a certain American general named Colin Powell oversaw the US invasion of Panama in late December 1989. In the initial days of the war, US forces bombarded the El Chorrillo neighborhood of Panama City, where the headquarters of the Panamanian Defense Forces were located alongside the homes of thousands of innocent civilians.

According to a report prepared by the UN Economic and Social Council, the result of the US attack on El Chorrillo was that "several blocks of apartments were totally destroyed, as a result of which their inhabitants were forced to seek alternative accommodation, often at a great distance from their former dwelling. Other buildings suffered severe damage."

By the UN's estimate, the homes of at least 2,723 Panamanian families, totaling approximately 13,500 people, were affected.

An April 7, 1991, the Human Rights Watch report was even more blunt, referring to "the devastation" of El Chorrillo and asserting that Powell's forces had "violated the rule of proportionality, which mandates that the risk of harm to impermissible targets be weighed against the military necessity of the objective pursued."

Now, isn't that ironic. The same Colin Powell who blasted Panamanians out of their homes 15 years ago to protect American troops now chooses to criticize Israel for doing the very same thing. Who does he think he's kidding?

But let Powell complain all he wants. Israel has no choice but to safeguard its citizens, regardless of what the secretary of state and his "good friends" the Palestinians might think.

[The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.]

[ Published: June 5, 2004 ]

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