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Mr. Olmert: Tear Down This Wall

Condemnation of Nazis from you is a bit puzzling as your own government has committed crimes against the Palestinians that, international legal experts agree, closely resemble Nuremberg crimes the Nazis committed against the Jews.
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,

As someone who was born and lived under the current Iranian regime for seventeen years, I sometimes wonder if my readers know why I have been speaking about Israel so much when the American media almost never mentions Israel and presidential debate moderators find it more relevant to ask about life beyond earth, UFOs and baseball than how Israeli policies have been impacting U.S. interests for the past six decades. And every time I try to alternate the topics of discussion, your government does something that farther damages the interests of the American people and leaves me puzzled as to why Israel continues to get a free pass. One of these events happened on October 25, 2007, when the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. went on Fox News to join the drum beating for another fictitious war- this time against Iran. He compared today's Iran to the Nazi Germany in 1938.

In addition, Norman Podhoretz - a Jewish neo-con, receiver of "Guardian of Zion" Award, one of the original signers of the imperial Project for the New American Century and now the leading foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani - claimed that the view of those who are encouraging diplomacy over military attacks against Iran "represents an irresponsible complacency that ... is comparable to the denial in the early '30s of the intentions of Hitler."

All of these comments are based on a remark by President Ahmadinejad of Iran about the Israeli regime. While his remarks were translated as "Israel must be wiped off the map," he never said the words "Israel," "wipe off" or "map." The correct translation of this statement was "Imam said this occupying regime in Jerusalem must vanish from the page of times." Mr. Ahmadinejad is a brutal leader and violates Iranians' human rights on a daily basis. But he does not hate Jews. If he did, then why are there 25,000 Jews living peacefully and happily in Iran without any fear of persecution? And why is it that when Israel backed a plan to pay Iranian Jewish families $60,000 to settle in Israel, Society of Iranian Jews met your announcement with scorn, issuing this statement: "The identity of Iranian Jews is not tradable for any amount of money. Iranian Jews are among the most ancient Iranians. Iran's Jews love their Iranian identity and their culture, so threats and this immature political enticement will not achieve their aim of wiping out the identity of Iranian Jews."? Criticizing a regime of a country cannot possibly be translated to wiping that country off the map or inflicting harm on its residents, just as wiping a country off the map cannot be interpreted as hatred toward the ethnic population in that country. And you know well that Ahmadinejad is not going to compromise Iran's own existence by attacking an aggressive non-NPT member like Israel that has between 200 to 300 nuclear weapons itself. He was making a criticism of your system of government, and Israel has taken his comment out of context to make this about anti-Semitism. It is not.

Mentioning the Nazi Germany in a negative light implies that you do not admire Hitler. That is understandable as he was best known for his systematic deportation, killing and torturing of Jews. But condemnation of Nazis from you is a bit puzzling as your own government has committed crimes against the Palestinians that, international legal experts agree, closely resemble Nuremberg crimes the Nazis committed against the Jews.

The U.S. has been giving Israel between one-third and one-fifth of our entire annual foreign aid based on the rationale that Israel is a democracy. But despite what our government - or your government - tell us, we do not share the same values. The United States is a liberal democracy where people of any race, religion and ethnicity are supposed to enjoy equal rights. Israel, however, was explicitly founded as a Jewish state, and your leaders have long done what they could to maintain an unchallenged Jewish majority. In fact, despite misperception among many Americans, even your basic laws do not guarantee equal rights for Arabs and Jews. The Israeli government in 1992 removed a clause from the so-called Israeli "Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty," which stated that "all are equal before the law, and there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, race, ethnic group, country of origin or any other irrelevant factor." This systematic racism has left non-Jews in your country treated as second class citizens. Institutionalization of racism has also affected sentiments among your Jewish population. A poll in March of 2007 showed that 55% of Jews in Israel want segregated entertainment facilities and 75% said they would not live in the same building as an Arab. But your laws have led to more than subtle discrimination. Israel has continuously tortured and killed or deported indigenous Arabs from Israel and occupied territories solely because they were Arabs. Menachem Begin, one of your previous leaders, once said that "Palestinians are beasts walking on two legs," and the Israeli Defense Forces' former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan referred to Palestinians as "drugged roaches in a bottle," and said that "a good Arab is a dead Arab." And another former chief of staff referred to the "threat" of an increase in Palestinian population as like a "cancer" on which he claimed that he was performing "chemotherapy."

You have pursued these policies within your borders while maintaining the longest military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in modern history, built settlements, built roads, expropriated land, deported, tortured and killed Palestinians, restricted freedom of movement, harmed the economy and made them impoverished for four decades, all in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, not to mention the most basic moral human standards. Mr. Olmert, you are the leader of an outlaw state.

But you have also pursued two policies that closely resemble those of the soviets in East Germany during the Cold War. One is that ever since you were forced to leave Gaza after Hamas was democratically elected in Palestine, you have imposed a ground-water-air Berlin-type blockade on Gaza for months, which UK Times says is "draining life" out of its residents. What is the rationale behind the blockade? Is it because you claim that Hamas would not recognize Israel as a state? But you surely must read Israel's most prestigious newspaper, Ha'aretz, to which the highest-ranking Hamas leader, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, told that "If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a cease-fire [hudna] for many years." "Hudna" is equivalent to 'international treaty' in modern terminology. And it cannot be because you oppose terrorism as a legitimate form of struggle as Israel was founded by relying on years of terrorism. Mearsheimer and Walt remind us that "Zionists used terrorism when they were trying to drive the British out of Palestine and establish their own state - for example by bombing King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946 and assassinating UN mediator Folke Bernadotte in 1948, among other acts." In fact, your own former Prime Minister Barak once admitted that if he was born a Palestinian, he "would have joined a terrorist organization" because of the policies Israel has pursued. Israel has also militarily supported the military regime of Burma, which recently used Israeli weapons to kill pro-democracy civilians (British Jane's Intelligence Review). Mr. Olmert, that is state sponsorship of terrorism.

The second policy that you have pursued is to begin building an apartheid wall all around and slicing through the West Bank, that is depriving the remaining Palestinian villages of their livelihood and expediting your policy of ethnic cleansing through home demolition and deportation. Since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 10,000 Palestinian homes and illegally established Jewish settlements on top of them. Comparing to the 96-mile-long 11.8-foot-high Berlin Wall, Israeli separation wall stretches more than 408 miles and is 6-24 feet high, complete with surrounding barb wires, electronic surveillance fences and patrol roads. The wall is not nearly close to the pre-1967 international borders as it swallows 42% of the West Bank and attaches it to Israel. The wall has separated Palestinians from their villages, farmers from their lands and residents from water sources. Through the wall's construction, Israel has also confiscated 35,000 meters of irrigation networks and destroyed 100,000 ancient olive trees. Ramallah district has been separated from the nearby Jerusalem and sliced through from different directions, requiring the indigenous Palestinian population to have to get passes from the occupying power to live on their own lands.

On June 9, 2004, the highest United Nations court - The International Court of Justice in The Hague - issued a strong condemnation of the wall and declared it illegal. In a vote of 14 to 1, the court stated that Israel must immediately stop construction of the wall in all areas, dismantle areas already built, repeal any legislation or regulation relating to the wall, and pay reparations to Palestinians for the damages caused.

Mr. Olmert, the United States has unconditionally supported your policies in the Middle East and fought your war in Iraq and paid the price through terrorism against our own interests. And now, people of your government are contributing to the hyping of rhetoric that is pushing our country into another war for another set of fictitious reasons. This is all while you are continuing your illegal occupation and military attacks on your neighbors, destabilizing the Middle East and undercutting our legitimacy on the world stage because of our governments' double standards. But times are changing and the people in America are beginning to ask questions and hold your country accountable to the democratic standards that you verbally adhere to. It is time to live up to those standards, respect international law and decent respect for human dignity, end the occupation and guarantee Palestinians a viable state after six decades of denial, racism, home demolition and apartheid.

Mr. Olmert; Open This Fence. Mr. Olmert, Tear Down This Wall.

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