On August 9 a suicide bomber entered Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem and detonated his bomb.
It was lunchtime and the restaurant's patrons consisted of small children, mothers and families. Fifteen people died that day and almost one hundred were injured as the bomb exploded, packed with nails to enhance its lethal capability. Six civilians killed were under the age of five. The militant Hamas, a self-described platform for the Islamic Resistance Movement, claimed responsibility.
Leah Schijveschuurder was enjoying some Sbarro cuisine that sad day along with her three sisters, brother and parents. Leah was wheeled to the funerals of her parents, brother and two sisters, her surviving sister was too wounded to attend. Another bomb was detonated in the nearby Haifa the following week. Fortunately, only the suicide bomber was killed.
The Simon Weisenthal Center has drawn up a petition pressuring the United Nations to recognize these suicide bombings as terrorist acts, making them illegal in their eyes. Representatives from the Simon Weisenthal Center will present the petitions when the UN convenes next week. Wednesday through Friday there will be a table set up in the Student Union in an joint effort by Hillel and the JSU to collect as many signatures as possible for this petition.
Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been a hotbed of tension and violence. Both citizens of Israel and Palestine harbor deep-rooted resentment toward their counterparts. The "Holy Land" is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians because of its religious significance as the central birthplace of three major religions.
Twelve months ago right-wing leader and current Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon visited a site holy both to Jews and Muslims. This small spark was all that was needed to ignite the fire. Since that visit, almost 750 people have been killed and a major cause of deaths on the Israeli side results from suicide bombings.
The Palestinian terrorist groups Jihad and Hamas claimed responsibility for these horrific and inhumane acts of violence that target civilians. These bombings frequently take place on buses, in bus stations, busy streets and malls. The Palestinian Authority, headed by Yasser Arafat actually encourages its citizens to give their lives in suicide bombings, promising martyrdom for the volunteer and financial security for the bomber's surviving family.
Imagine a bomb exploding at Cloud 9 on a Friday night, killing UB students. In America this idea is inconceivable but in Tel Aviv on June 21 this scenario was all too real, as twenty-one died that night.
Can you imagine living in constant anxiety of leaving your house; for fear that you may be caught at the wrong place at the wrong time? Each night is the culmination of a long battle just to stay alive? In Israel those who live to fear another day are the lucky ones.
The use of suicide bombers is not a new concept however. Terrorist groups have employed this perfidious and devastating tactic for decades, yet the UN has never declared it a terrorist act. There are many organizations working to combat this one-sided bias, such as the Weisenthal Center.
Israel may be thousands of miles away, but we can make a difference. The United States stands as the most affluent and powerful country in the UN and one of Israel's only remaining allies.
Pressure from American citizens may be enough to make a change. Lend your signature to this cause and sign the petition demanding the UN condemn suicide bombings as acts of terrorism. When you see the petition table set up in the Student Union this week visit and take a stand.
For those individuals who are interested in actively getting involved in the Middle East crisis, the rally "Israel Now and Forever" will be held in New York City on September 23 at 47th Street and 2nd Avenue at 1 p.m. The rally is intended to show Israel that we Americans are standing with them. Contact Hillel for travel information.
So many brave souls are sacrificing their lives to protect the innocent; we can at least give our signature.