Former President Jimmy Carter writes an excellent op-ed piece in the Washington Post today on why the invasion of Gaza was totally unnecessary. He begins by acknowledging the effect of Hamas rockets into southern Israel:
After visiting Sderot last April and seeing the serious psychological damage caused by the rockets that had fallen in that area, my wife, Rosalynn, and I declared their launching from Gaza to be inexcusable and an act of terrorism. Although casualties were rare (three deaths in seven years), the town was traumatized by the unpredictable explosions.
He then puts things into context, something the likes of Harry Reid and other U.S. leaders simply do not have the moral spine to do.
We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food had found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.
Palestinian leaders from Gaza were noncommittal on all issues, claiming that rockets were the only way to respond to their imprisonment and to dramatize their humanitarian plight. The top Hamas leaders in Damascus, however, agreed to consider a cease-fire in Gaza only, provided Israel would not attack Gaza and would permit normal humanitarian supplies to be delivered to Palestinian citizens.
After extended discussions with those from Gaza, these Hamas leaders also agreed to accept any peace agreement that might be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PLO, provided it was approved by a majority vote of Palestinians in a referendum or by an elected unity government.
Carter passed this message to the Egyptians, who, in all likelihood, passed it on to the Israelis.
After about a month, the Egyptians and Hamas informed us that all military action by both sides and all rocket firing would stop on June 19, for a period of six months, and that humanitarian supplies would be restored to the normal level that had existed before Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 (about 700 trucks daily).
Note: the increase was to an “average of about 20 percent of normal levels. Imagine yourselves walled inside of Gaza.
And what happened next?
I made an effort for the impending six-month deadline to be extended. It was clear that the preeminent issue was opening the crossings into Gaza. Representatives from the Carter Center visited Jerusalem, met with Israeli officials and asked if this was possible in exchange for a cessation of rocket fire. The Israeli government informally proposed that 15 percent of normal supplies might be possible if Hamas first stopped all rocket fire for 48 hours. This was unacceptable to Hamas, and hostilities erupted
Fifteen percent of normal supplies? You have to be kidding. As Cardinal Martino said,
“Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”
We all have read of the horrors the invasion has visited on Gaza: starving children huddled around a dead mother; Israeli forces attacking humanitarian relief efforts even when those efforts signal in every possible way their movements in Gaza.
This moral horror seems to be a popular election platform for Barak. But there are voices inside Israel, indeed, inside southern Israel, in one of those very towns that have received Hamas rockets that do understand. While the moral compass of the U.S. and official Israel is off the charts, Neve Gordon, chair of the Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel states the problem precisely:
Well, we just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous, as opposed to what Meagan said before. We have here a situation where actually Israel did leave the Gaza Strip three years ago, but it maintains sovereignty in any political science sense of the term. We’ve controlled all the borders. We’ve basically had an economic boycott on the Gaza Strip. And the people there have been living in what one should probably call as a prison. And they’ve been reacting with rockets, because probably that’s the only way that they can react.
They have been “living in a prison…reacting with rockets.” Cardinal Martino had it right: More and more it resembles a big concentration camp.
I need not tell you the U.S. media take on all this. You hear it everyday. Hear it enough and you will believe it.
And where is Obama in all this? Silence. Not a word. Now that may seem politically astute. It is not. I leave that last assertion for the more astute of you to argue. For those of you who want to sling mud at Carter, I would suggest, politely, that attacking the messenger and not the message is a weak rhetorical device. For those of you who wish to be outraged by Martino’s or Gordon’s assessment, I suggest you look at the facts. Israel has lost its way–and is dragging the U.S. down with it.