As President-elect Barack Obama vacationed in
Hawaii on Dec. 26, stopping off to watch a dolphin show with his family at Sea
Life Park, an Israeli air raid besieged the impoverished Gaza Strip, killing
at least 285 people and injuring over 800 more.
It was the single deadliest attack on Gaza in over 20 years, and Obama's initial
reaction on what could be his first real test as president was "no comment."
Meanwhile, Israel has readied itself for a land invasion, amassing tanks along
the border and calling up 6,500 reserve troops.
On Sunday's Face the Nation, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod explained
to guest cost Chip Reid how an Obama administration would handle the situation,
even if it turns for the worse.
"Well, certainly, the president-elect recognizes the special relationship
between United States and Israel. It's an important bond, an important relationship.
He's going to honor it. … And obviously, this situation has become even more
complicated in the last couple of days and weeks. As Hamas began its shelling,
Israel responded. But it's something that he's committed to."
Reiterating the rationale that Israel's bombing of Gaza was an act of retaliation
and not of aggression, Axelrod, on behalf of the Obama administration, continued
to spread the same misinformation as President Bush: that Hamas was the first
to break the cease-fire agreement, which ended over a week ago, and Israel was
simply responding judiciously.
Aside from the fact that Israel's response was anything but judicious, the
idea that it was Hamas who broke the six-month truce is a complete fabrication.
On the night of the U.S. election, Israel fired missiles on Gaza that were
aimed at closing down a tunnel operation they believed Hamas was building in
order to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The carnage left in the wake of Israel's bombing
of Gaza over the past six weeks has killed dozens of Palestinians.
"The escalation towards war could, and should, have been avoided. It was
the State of Israel which broke the truce, in the 'ticking tunnel' raid … two
months ago," the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom wrote in a press release.
"Since then, the army went on stoking the fires of escalation with calculated
raids and killings, whenever the shooting of missiles on Israel decreased."
Over the last seven years only 17 Israeli citizens have been killed by Palestinian
rocket fire, which makes it extremely difficult for Israeli politicians, who
are in the midst of an election, to argue that their response has been proportionate
or defensible in any way.
The asymmetry of the conflict leaves an opening for harsh criticism from soon-to-be
president Barack Obama. He has every right to oppose Israel's belligerence.
The international community and public opinion are on his side. Certainly he
knows Israel's disproportionate response has inflicted pain on Palestinians
beyond what the blockade has done by keeping vital medical and other supplies
from reaching Gaza, where hundreds have died as a result of inadequate medical
While bombs fall on a suffocating Palestinian population and Israeli forces
prepare for a ground invasion, Obama is monitoring the situation from afar after
a talk with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration
officials. This isn't leadership; it's a continuation of a policy that has left
Palestinians with little recourse, let alone hope for lasting peace.
"The president-elect was in Sderot last July, in southern Israel, a town
that's taken the brunt of the Hamas attacks," David Axelrod told Chip Reid
on Face the Nation. "And he said then that, when bombs are raining
down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an
end to that. So, you know, that's what he said then, and I think that's what
If Axelrod is correct, and Barack Obama does indeed support the bloodshed inflicted
upon innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military, there should be no celebration
on Inauguration Day 2009, only mass protest against a Middle East foreign policy
that must change in order to begin a legitimate peace process in the region.