- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

For too long, Israel has suffered under a coordinated and sustained campaign of terror. In recognition of this urgent situation, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed S. Amendment 3389, a resolution that stated the United States and Israel were "engaged in a common struggle against terrorism," and condemned homicidal Palestinian bombings.

Seldom is the moral clarity of a subject so obvious, and seldom is the closely divided Senate ever in such agreement. Yet, Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, and Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, cast the only two votes against this resolution.

While Mr. Hollings' vote was unconscionable, it was not surprising. Mr. Hollings was the only member of the South Carolina delegation not to support the first President Bush in the Gulf war, calling Desert Storm "an unprovoked offensive against Iraq."

True to form, Mr. Hollings was not content with a simple vote against Israel. In a diatribe before votes were cast Thursday, he compared Israel's democratically elected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with the evil and brutal dictator Saddam Hussein. This is a cruel and malicious slander.

Mr. Hollings also called Mr. Sharon "the Bull Conner of Israel." For those who don't remember, Bull Conner was the police commissioner of Birmingham, Ala., who in 1963 unleashed attack-dogs and fire hoses on civil-rights protesters during the movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If in Mr. Hollings' mind Ariel Sharon is a modern day Bull Conner, he seems to be comparing Yasser Arafat, whose Fatah organization is directly linked to terrorist groups like the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to King. It also equates the evil suicide-bombings being carried out by Palestinian terrorists to the protests of the civil-rights movement. This type of logic is out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Israel is up against terrorists who practice a culture of death, where parents raise their children to take joy in murdering innocent women and children by strapping explosives to their bodies to bomb supermarkets. In response, Mr. Hollings urges us to "listen awhile, set this aside, and move on." I ask the senator, how many more children must die before Israelis gain the right to defend themselves?

The junior senator continued by laying the blame for the recent increase in terrorist murders at Mr. Sharon's feet. He claims "Ariel Sharon is a rejectionist who provocatively egged on the Palestinians," and that Mr. Sharon "must learn the lessons of the past. He is making more terrorists than he is getting rid of." However, history offers a different view. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took on this kind of false argument head on. When asked on NBC's "Meet the Press," if Israel's defensive measures were creating more terrorists, he said:

"We're not creating them. What's creating them is the inculcation that they receive in these schools. And you have no choice but to defend yourself and to dismantle these regimes. The key is the regimes that inculcate these people. You know, it's often said, and you just heard it, that between the lines that what produces terrorism, and, by extension, what produces suicidal terrorism, is the deprivation of rights. But if you look at the thousands, thousands of conflicts for national liberation and for equal rights in the 19th and 20th century, hardly any produced terrorism. Martin Luther King didn't use terrorism. Mahatma Gandhi in fighting for the liberation of India from Britain didn't use terrorism. In the 19th century, the Poles, the Czechs, the Greeks, the Italians, all fighting for their independence, never used terrorism."

Shameful rhetoric like that of Mr. Hollings causes the public to become apathetic toward government. They expect and deserve better. With the Israeli prime minister scheduled to meet with President Bush this week, Mr. Hollings should publicly apologize for the insults hurled at Ariel Sharon and the insensitivity he has shown toward Israel's struggle against terrorism.


Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, is a member of the House Israel Caucus.


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