US Should Condemn Israeli Assault On Gaza And Call For Immediate Cease-Fire (But Of Course, It Hasn't)
For the last few days, Gaza has been under assault by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The US press is reporting the Israeli attack to be in response to rocket fire coming from the Gaza strip, although the sequence of events isn't quite that simple. So far, 15 Palestinians have been killed, eight of which have been reported to be civilians, including a pregnant woman, a 10-month old son of a BBC worker, and three infants. A rocket launched from Gaza after the Israeli assault began is said to have killed three Israeli civilians.
Let it be known: all acts of violence toward civilians ought to be condemned, and no violence between Israelis and Palestinians ought to be condoned. Violence is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause not only because it provokes Israeli countermeasures that harm and kill civilians, but also because it gives opponents to Palestinian freedom ammunition to shoot down efforts toward peace. And not only is Israel's violence excessive in nature, but counterproductive for Israel as well, as it threatens to destroy the already precarious peace treaty with Egypt and further enrage its other neighbors. Escalation of this conflict into a regional war would be truly devastating for all involved. Meanwhile, innocents are being harmed at this very moment. A cease-fire ought to be called immediately, and a diplomatic resolution to the rocket fire—including some of its root causes, like the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza—ought to be pursued.
The US, however, has not taken this position, at least publicly. We all know that the tensions between Israel and Gaza go far deeper than Gazan rockets, but apparently, the US thinks it all starts there. In response to the initiation of the Israeli assault, the State Department issued a statement, the title of which—"Gaza Rockets"—gives away its intent to place all the blame on Gaza. The statement includes nothing critical of Israeli actions, no call for a cease-fire—only a not-so-subtle endorsement of the Israeli attack:
We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination.
The US "strongly condemns" the rocket fire coming out of Gaza and "supports" Israel's so-called right to defend itself, but only "regrets" civilian casualties and "encourages" Israel to avoid civilian casualties. So as long as Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties—which, to the US, is likely demonstrated by the simple assertion that Israeli is trying to avoid civilian casualties—this is all totally cool with the US.
The same language and focus on Gazan actions appear in Susan Rice's statement reporting on President Obama's calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi:
Today, the United States strongly condemned the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel and expressed regret at the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. This evening, President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Morsi of Egypt about the developing situation in Gaza.
President Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he understands and supports Israel’s right to self-defense in light of countless rocket attacks on Israeli civilians being launched from Gaza. The President urged that Prime Minister Netanyahu make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, and agreed that Hamas needs to stop the attacks on Israel and allow the situation to de-escalate. The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch in the coming days.
President Obama also spoke with President Morsi of Egypt, given Egypt’s critical role in regional security. Both agreed that everyone’s interests are best served by ensuring that this situation does not escalate. The two similarly agreed to stay in close touch over the coming days.
The Government of Israel has noted that, since the beginning of 2012, more than 768 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, and over 12,000 in the past 12 years. Israel, like any nation, has the right to defend itself against such vicious attacks.
There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately.
Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that does nothing but set back the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza nor to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination and independence.
Here, the stronger verb "urge" is used to describe the US position about avoiding civilian casualties, but otherwise, the same one-sidedness is on display, with no mention or condemnation of Israeli aggression. Also added is an "understanding" of the Israeli position. Those rockets destroying property and terrorizing the populace in southern Israel are pretty bad, but has the US forgotten about the open air prison that Israel has made Gaza?
Even though it is absolutely ridiculous, let's grant, for argument's sake, the US position that the only party to blame here is Gaza. There is still a failure to recognize that 1) violence on the part of Israel is excessive and counterproductive; and 2) that there are other available methods to end the rocket fire. As a New York Times editorial points out, Israel could have asked Egypt to mediate a long-lasting cease-fire, a path Hamas expressed interest in as late as Monday. Unfortunately, Israel destroyed the possibility of a truce by assassinating Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari.
But perhaps the best thing Israel could be doing to stop the rocket attacks is to end the blockade of Gaza and to actually make an effort toward peace with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, on the international scene, the pursuit of peace has taken a backseat to Israel's crusade against Iran—or, rather, the issue of Iran has been allowed to justify Israeli inaction on Palestinian peace. But the recurrence of these bursts of violence between Israel and violent factions associated with the Palestinian plight show that the international community can no longer ignore the lack of progress toward peace.
As for the US, it must call for an immediate cease-fire. Otherwise, the farce that casts the US as a mediator for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians must end.