Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Self-Defense Only for Bullies
"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in recent days. Together with the American people, I offer my deepest condolences for those injured or killed. There is never any possible justification for terrorism. The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once and we underscore that Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense. We also express our deepest condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties." President Obama, in a statement today
What's wrong with this statement?
Let me say first off that terrorism is a terrible thing. But let me also say that it is not just the so-far unannounced perpetrators of this bombing who are guilty of terrorism. I think it is unlikely that either of the main Palestinian players (Hamas or Fatah) will be shown to be behind this bombing. But what IS known is the identity of those who just killed four boys in Gaza who were in the street playing soccer: the IDF and the government of Israel. These boys were sacrificed so that Israel could kill some alleged Hamas militants nearby (guilty of what crime according to what jury?). The Israeli government "apologized" of course. Now my mother always taught me that part of an apology is a commitment never to make the same mistake again, which clearly the Israelis have no intention of doing, so you may toss that insulting apology straight into the trash where it belongs.
The biggest question I have about this statement is why Obama offers only an afterthought of condolences to the civilian victims of an Israeli attack? Because the part of this statement I find most disturbingly hypocritical is the part where he says "Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense." Because in his eminent reasonableness what he's actually saying is that the Israeli nation has rights, but the Palestinian one does not. Considering that one of these two nations is locked behind a barbed-wire barricade of blockade, that pretty much means you can toss Obama's professed commitment to Palestinian statehood into the trash with the Israeli apologies.
It's clear that tensions between the Israeli government and the Palestinians in Gaza are rising dangerously, similarly to the period before Israel's assault on Gaza two years ago. But what's not clear from reading most American media, is that what Hamas is doing is not acting like terrorists but acting like, wait for it, a nation that, like all nations, has the right to self-defense. The American media from rightwing to liberal shares the same narrative: Israel is responding to Hamas lobbing missiles at civilians in Israel. But I challenge anyone to read an independent source of Middle East news like Mondoweiss and not see that the actions of Hamas are clearly a response to Israeli aggression.
Israel can kidnap, imprison, assassinate, harass, evict, and blockade whoever it wants with complete U.S.-backed (and paid for) impunity. The recent US vote vetoing a UN resolution against stealing more Palestinian land shows that there are zero repercussions for Israel's aggressive policies. When the Palestinians respond, they are accused of being violent, of being terrorists. In fact Hamas has honored a ceasefire with Israel; and it has clearly announced measured retaliation and response to actual Israeli attack. As I've maintained elsewhere, I'm not a big fan of any kinds of military response. But to condemn the defensive actions of the Palestinians out of proportion to the aggressive actions of Israel is obscene. As obscene as thinking it will be okay to kill children playing games if you apologize afterwards.
And speaking of obscene, what kind of nerve does it take to say that nations have the right to defend themselves at the very moment you are ordering your war machine to rain death from the skies over the sovereign nation of Libya? What kind of obscene is it to urge "all parties" restraint and calm when you are giving one of the parties cut-rate cluster bombs, white phosophorus, and depleted uranium munitions? You can't say your intentions are peaceful when clearly in reality they are not.
I believe what the beautiful poster above says: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." But by what right does someone not willing to turn his own cheek ask another to turn theirs? The power of Obama's words is wearing very very thin.
Graphic from "Social Design Notes"