Monday, December 29, 2008

Joined at the Strip

In response to recent rocket attacks, Israel is once again going to town on Gaza militants. Actually, you can pretty much drop the "militants" part, by the IDF's own account.

After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game," said armed forces deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Dan Harel, quoted by the YNet News website.

"We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings," Harel said.

At least 57 Palestinian civilians, including 21 children, have been killed in the Israeli bombardment, a UN spokesman said.

Now with the Gaza Strip taking a further pounding in addition to the blockade that's already wrung the civilian population, where do you think The Wall Street Journal sits? Go ahead, guess.

Israel's air assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks is inspiring familiar international denunciations. But the best commentary we've heard might be this one: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing."

Barack Obama said those words in July while visiting Israel as a Presidential candidate.

Now as President-elect, Mr. Obama is maintaining an appropriate silence while deferring to the Bush Administration before his Inauguration. But his July remarks capture the essence of Israel's right to self-defense. Moreover, the more successful Israel is this week in damaging Hamas as a terrorist force, the better chance Mr. Obama will have to make progress in facilitating a genuine Mideast peace.

All this is rich in ways the average WSJ reader can only imagine being? First of all, "familiar international denunciations"? Seriously? Familiar to whom? Not to most of the American people. If you're hearing more than the mildest criticism of Israeli actions, it's from the foreign press or some left-wing newsweekly. One with a circulation under 300 and a publishing office located in a dorm.

And with all due respect to President-elect Obama, it's a very good thing to imagine how the other guy feels. As your predecessor might know, Jesus spoke highly of this kind of exercise. But the imaginations of our political leaders only seem to extend to one side here.

Try projecting yourself into the mind of a Gaza resident. Your government is of the wrong party as far as Israel and the US are concerned. The party is supposed to be a terrorist front, which no one has ever tried to prove to you. So your whole province suffers: lack of electricity, lack of power, difficulty in buying food and medicine. Punctuated by attacks on civilian homes and hospitals. Now how much will you care about a lasting piece with Israel and America, or even believe it possible?

Not to mention the fourth Geneva Convention, which is pretty clear.

Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

There is not a lot of wiggle room here, which is the kind of thing your supposed to tell your friends and allies when they're on the wrong track. And in more than one way, it looks like our Mideastern ally is:

Michael Hudson, professor of international relations at Georgetown University said that by backing Israel's position the US was opening itself up to attack.

"If you're identified with an Israel that is bombing indiscriminately and disproportionately, this is really good for Osama Bin laden, it's good for extremists all across the region and I fear that Americans as well as Israelis will now suffer," he told Al Jazeera.

I, for one, have not forgotten September 11th. And if our Mideast policy is making life easier for those who committed that atrocity or would like to repeat it, that's something we need to stop doing! Our not-so-friends in the region have gotten used to sticks. Maybe we should remind them what carrots taste like.

UPDATE: Turns out Greenwald had a lot of the same concerns and expressed them well. As to Marty Peretz, he's semiretired I guess but sold TNR to a multinational that replicates all his prejudices. Life is good.


susan said...

Great post. I haven't forgotten it either but unfortunately it's never been properly investigated and is unlikely to be in the current climate of denial.

I wish Obama showed signs of interest in taking another path.

Ellie said...

I voted for Obama and would vote for him again (unless 4 years of his regime fall extremely far short of what we are hoping for), but I wish that it were acceptable in US politics to discuss the fact that sometimes Israel behaves in ways that are absolutely unacceptable to what we posit as our inviolate tenets of freedom. Good post.

Ben said...

Hi Susan. Thank you. I sometimes think I'm getting out of my depth with serious posts like this, so it's good to know I still have something. And yeah, I wish I could be more encouraged by our upcoming path too.

Thank you as well, Ellie. The link I'm adding to Glenn Greenwald kind of goes into that too.