The Tragedy of Gaza and The Testing of Obama

When Biden talked of Obama being tested, he should have noted that some of our so-called friends will test him even more. So it is with the horror that is now Gaza. American-Likud foreign policy has been cruel and disastrous. The Likud government continues to expand its settlements, cutting so-called Palestine into ever more pronounced Swiss cheese. The U.S. politely protests but continues to look the other way. Both Lukud and the U.S. have repeatedly insisted that they and they alone have the right to select the leaders of Palestine. Unhappy with Arafat? Unhappy with Hamas? Get rid of them.

Perhaps Israel should stop the charade and simply annex Palestine. Democratic elections clearly mean nothing to the to Israel…or the U.S. in this matter? Why should it when it has a world-class military force pitted against rocks and a few rockets.

After a right wing zealot assassinated Rabin and after the aborted Clinton-Barak-Arafat meeting, there has been no serious peace process. Instead, the U.S. has allowed the Likud government to dictate not only its path in the Palestinian conflict but also its Middle East policy in general. The net result has been to radicalize more and more Islamists.

I listened this morning to Ofir Gendelman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry claim that there was and has never been a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that passage for supplies to Gaza have always been open. When told that journalists inside Gaza have been reporting just the opposite, he responded that those Hamas is clearly intimidating them. When told that the Supreme Court of Israeli has said that foreign journalists should be allowed to cover what is going on in Gaza and asked why the Israeli government would not allow such coverage, he responded that the world would then blame Israel if they got hurt or killed. But journalist cover wars all the time. And so the defense of the indefensible continues. Of course this confrontational exchange occurred on CBC television; it would never be allowed to air in the U.S. The simple explanation those in the U.S. hear is: Israel is defending itself from Hamas rockets.

The Canadian commentator then confronted Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian negogiator, about those rocket attacks. Her simple reply was that Hamas had maintained a six month cease fire…and still Israel maintained a siege on Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world.

“Is there any responsibility on the part of Hamas,” the commentator asked?

“These are the people under occupation,” she replied. “You would do the same.” She continued that ultimately all sides will have to sit down and work this out and realize that bloodshed gets us nowhere.

The New York Times described part of the problem:

“If the war ends in a draw, as expected, and Israel refrains from re-occupying Gaza, Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition,” wrote Aluf Benn, a political analyst, in the newspaper Haaretz on Friday. “No matter what you call it,” he added, “Hamas will obtain legitimacy.”

In addition, any potential truce deal would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas’s central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair.

Implicit in Mr. Benn’s argument, however, is that the only way to stop Hamas from gaining legitimacy is for Israel to fully occupy Gaza again, more than three years after removing its soldiers and settlers. That is a prospect practically no one in Israel or abroad is advocating.

I see no end to this tragedy until America straightens out its crooked and disastrous slavish following of Likud. America’s media and America’s leaders have been tied to the hip of right wing, religious fanatics in Israel. These are harsh words–and meant to be.

The testing of Obama has begun.