May 20, 2004
George W. Bush could not have picked a more inopportune time to speak before AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and to heap praise on Ariel Sharon and blame on Yasser Arafat.
AIPAC has reflexively defended the illegal and brutal policies of the government of Israel toward Palestinians. But AIPAC has a lot of clout in Washington, and Bush was there to ingratiate himself with Jewish voters.
The political nature of the visit wasn't lost on members of AIPAC, who broke out into chants of "four more years" when Bush was introduced, according to The New York Times.
Bush heaped it on thick.
"By defending the freedom and prosperity and security of Israel, you're also serving the cause of America," he told the AIPAC crowd, to applause. He added: "AIPAC is doing important work. I hope you know that. . . . I thank you for doing your part in the cause of freedom."
This would have been obscene obsequiousness even under normal circumstances.
But the date of Bush's speech made it grotesque and obscene.
It was Tuesday, May 18.
That same day, Israeli troops killed at least nineteen people in the Gaza Strip.
The very next day, an Israeli tank and an Israeli helicopter gunship fired into a crowd of protesters in Rafah, killing anywhere from 10 to two dozen Palestinians and wounding dozens more. Many of the victims were children.
Even though the United States did not block a Security Council resolution condemning Israel's action, Bush could not bring himself to criticize Israel or Sharon directly.
And Sharon appreciates that.
Bush long ago took up sides. And almost everything Sharon and the Israeli military does is OK with him.
What Bush doesn't understand is that Palestine is the cause of the Arab people, and the killing of innocent Palestinian kids enflames an entire region.
Until Bush puts pressure on Sharon to end the illegal and brutal policies and come to a decent peace agreement, this fire will rage, and it will lap at the shores of America.