Moral relativism, political double talk, and a
military juggernaut blind to its violence against an occupied people highlight
the most recent, tragic conflagration in Israel and Palestine. In justifying
Israel's most brutal and bloody salvo against Gaza in decades – which has so
far killed nearly 400 Palestinians and wounded more than 1800 – Israel's UN
ambassador stated that Israel was "rightfully defending itself from continued
Hamas rocket attacks within her borders." Furthermore, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
forewarned that the offensive "is liable to continue for some time" and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared it as an "all-out war against Hamas and
Israel's "right to self defense" and supporting Israel's contention
that the onus is on Hamas to renew the truce, President Bush's waning administration
highlighted its remarkably predictable political incompetence and tone-deaf
moral vacancy by squandering yet another precious opportunity to remedy – at
least rhetorically – the festering, radioactive sore that is the Palestinian
human rights crisis in Gaza and the West Bank. Continuing to spin a broken record,
his administration condones Israel's brazen and repeated violations of international
law while simultaneously denying Palestinian human rights, at the precarious
risk of destabilizing a hostile and volatile Middle East region.
It goes without saying that this sad reality fails to absolve the illegality
of Palestinian violence directed against Israel and her civilians. Hamas' infractions
of international law should be strongly condemned by both the United States
and the international community, including Arab countries, many of which espouse
reactionary, anti-Semitic rhetoric. But such actions do not justify an escalation
into outright war – one in which civilian causalities are almost a certainty
due to the density of Gaza – any more than the Israeli blockade of Gaza would
justify suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The answer to a festering
conflict is to take steps towards resolution, not spiral the conflict into madness.
President-elect Obama conveniently remains silent on the current hostilities
(for now) and has thus deferred to President Bush. Nonetheless, earlier this
summer he endorsed Israel's right to defend itself against Qassam rockets by
"If someone were sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep
at night, I would do anything to stop it." One wonders, however, if President
elect Obama's principles of safety, dignity and self defense apply to Palestinians
as well? If Obama and President Bush's daughters were forced
to suspend their emergency hospital operations due to fuel shortages, beg
for 300 essential medicines, drink contaminated water that causes malnutrition
and anemia in children, eat bread made of animal feed, and renounce electricity
because their main power plant was forced to shut down, what would they do?
That hypothesis tragically exists as a reality for Gaza residents, some of
the poorest people on Earth, who have survived Israel's nearly two-month embargo
and blockade that followed another two years of frequent and devastating closures.
Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian
Refugees (UNRWA), called
the Gaza humanitarian crisis "disastrous" and said the agency has
been unable to get needed medical supplies into Gaza for more than a year due
to Israel's blockade of border crossings.
At AIPAC's annual conference last summer, in what devolved into an embarrassing
competition of one-upmanship, both President-elect Obama and Senator Hillary
Clinton pledged unyielding support for Israel. Obama promised he would "never
compromise when it comes to Israel's security"; meanwhile, Clinton affirmed
"the United States stands with Israel now and forever."
In order to truly act upon his promise of "change," President-elect
Obama needs to quickly revoke Israel's perennial carte blanche and "get
out of international jail" Monopoly card for the sake of ensuring long-term
American and Israeli security and eventually winning the "war on terror."
It would bear reminding that the current US policy in Israel and Palestine is
one of bin Laden's main justifications for his global, violent jihad against
Americans and sadly remains a highly successful recruitment ploy for al-Qaeda
amongst disenfranchised Muslims.
It warrants a mention that the brutality of Israel's policies towards Palestinians
has transcended the bipolar framework of an "Arab vs. Jewish thing"
and is now recognized internationally as a shameful example of human rights
violations. After visiting Israel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who opposed apartheid
in South Africa, stated
he saw "the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks,
suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving
about." He offered Israel would "never get true security and safety
through oppressing another people." Commenting on Israel's policies in
Gaza and West Bank, President Jimmy Carter controversially declared
that it existed as "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying
the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally
dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human
The United States could publicly acknowledge the lopsided and oppressive relationship
existing between the nation of Israel and its Palestinian refugees by refusing
to implicitly or explicitly endorse and rationalize Israel's latest offensive
incursion as simply a "defensive security measure." Yet, by continuing
to vocally defend Israel as the only advocate and partner of peace while perpetually
blaming Palestinians as the sole aggressor, the United States recklessly obfuscates
the reality of an Israeli blitzkrieg that repeatedly bombards a beleaguered
Palestinian refugee population with an inordinately superior and sophisticated
This changed tone, which would reflect fairness and nuance, would also signal
to the Muslim world that the US does not blindly and unconditionally endorse
Israel's prejudicial treatment of Palestinian refugees, its building of illegal
settlements on West Bank and Gaza lands, its illegal, extra judicial killings
and kidnappings, and it's most recent gratuitous violence unleashed on Gaza
Finally, the loss of innocent Palestinian life in relation to Israeli life
should not merely be treated as tragic, but necessary, "collateral damage."
Both need to be afforded dignity and value as human beings, who are neither
favored nor condemned for sake of advancing narrow-minded foreign policy initiatives
and strengthening expedient political alliances.