Shame on You, Madeleine Albright
by Hanan Ashrawi
The Progressive magazine, Dec 2000
In her interview on NBC's Meet the Press (Sunday, October
8, 2000), U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright represented
the epitome of the willful blindness, moral vacuum, human insensitivity,
political cynicism, and strategic ignorance that have characterized
the U.S. handling of the Arab-Israeli "peace process"
and the Palestinian Question in particular.
When asked about the U.S. abstention on the U.N. Security
Council's Resolution 1233 deploring the (anonymous) "provocation
carried out at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem on 28 September
2000" and condemning (also anonymous) "acts of violence,
especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians,"
Albright immediately waxed apologetic.
She was defensive not about diluting the text of the resolution
and eliminating any explicit reference to Israel's culpability,
not about abstaining when the U.S. should have cast an affirmative
vote in condemnation of the horrific and tragic loss of Palestinian
lives (mainly children), and not about American passivity before
the very visible crimes against humanity that are being committed
by Israel with impunity and arrogance.
Rather, Madam Albright expressed contrition at not casting
a veto on this hesitant, apologetic, and inadequate expression
by the international community of minimal recognition of Palestinian
humanity and suffering.
Why? Because the U.S. wants to "safeguard" its role
as an "evenhanded peace broker."
To the Palestinians, this came as a complete surprise since
the U.S. has never been evenhanded or fair or even remotely human
in its brokerage of the peace process.
Given the chance to atone, however modestly, for such double
standards and bias, the U.S. once again insists on failing the
test of moral integrity and humanity.
Worse yet, Madam Albright (with a straight face) declares
in a cold and deliberate tone that the Palestinians have "placed
Israel under siege."
I immediately assumed that she had confused her nouns, and
that she had inadvertently given the converse version of reality.
In the next breath, however, and with the same deadpan, expressionless,
emotionless, glazed look, Madam Albright repeated: "Those
Palestinian rock throwers have placed Israel under siege,"
adding that the Israeli army is defending itself.
At the risk of tediousness and redundancy, it is appropriate
to remind Madam Albright of a few basic facts that may have escaped
It is Israel that is the belligerent occupant of Palestine
(and not the other way around).
Israeli tanks and armored vehicles are surrounding Palestinian
villages, camps, and cities (and not the other way around).
Israeli (American-made) Apache gunships are firing Lau and
other missiles at Palestinian protesters and homes (and not the
other way around).
It is Israel that is confiscating Palestinian land and importing
Jewish settlers to set up illegal armed settlements in the heart
of Palestinian territory (and not the other way around).
The settlers on the rampage in the West Bank are Israelis
terrorizing Palestinians in their own homes (and not the other
The homes that are being demolished at the hands of the Israelis
are Palestinian homes (and not the other way around).
The armed soldiers and Special Forces at checkpoints throughout
Palestine are Israeli (and not the other way around).
The more than 100 murdered civilians and thousands of injured
are [almost all] Palestinians being shot by Israeli occupation
troops (and not the other way around).
It is Israel that has closed down the Palestinian airport
at Gaza, thereby preventing badly needed medical supplies from
reaching the Palestinians (and not the other way around).
The crossing points to and from Palestine, as well as entrances
and exits to and from all Palestinian inhabited areas, are manned
and controlled by Israeli soldiers who have completely prevented
all freedom of movement (and not the other way around).
To state the obvious once again, Madam Albright, Israel is
committing atrocities against the Palestinians with total impunity,
and yet you maintain "Israel is besieged."
To add insult to injury, you admonish the Palestinian leadership
for not ordering their people to "stop the violence,"
as though you're entirely oblivious to the fact that all it takes
is an order from Ehud Barak to his "disciplined" occupation
army to stop killing Palestinians.
No, we will not lie down and die in silence, even to accommodate
you, Madam Albright, for cold-blooded murder is not a phenomenon
May I suggest that the siege is in the minds of American officials
and apologists for Israel who willfully persist in blaming the
victim, in finding a false symmetry between occupier and occupied,
in adopting a double standard on the value of human lives and
rights while totally dehumanizing the Palestinians, in treating
Israel as a country above the law and Palestinians as a people
not worthy of the protection of the law, in manipulating and inventing
a peace process that would accommodate such a racist and stereotypical
version of reality rather than a reality of justice and evenhandedness,
and in evading and distorting moral responsibility toward the
Palestinian victims rather than celebrating the violence of the
Granted, Madam Albright, Slobodan Milosevic is a war criminal
(despite the fact that his army did not massacre the Serb opposition
that brought about his downfall), but what about Ariel Sharon
and even your good friend Ehud Barak? Whose blood is dripping
from their hands?
Granted, Madam Albright, "the people have spoken"
in Yugoslavia, so why don't you listen when the Palestinian people
cry out for justice?
As a woman, a mother, and a grandmother, you surely understand
the pain of children and their parents when they get hurt; what
about the agony of senseless and brutal murder being visited on
May I suggest, Madam Albright, that before you go on television
before the whole world to pontificate on issues Palestinian, you
start by examining the facts and then start to examine your own
This article was reprinted with permission from Al-Ahram Weekly
out of Cairo. Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestine Liberation
Council and a former Minister of Education in the Palestinian