Unfair and Unbalanced: The U.S. Response to the Gaza Crisis



WAJAHAT ALI – 12/30/08

Moral relativism, political double talk, and a military juggernaut blind to its violence against an occupied people highlight the most recent, tragic conflagration in Israel and Palestine.


In justifying Israel’s most brutal and bloody salvo against Gaza in decades – which has so far killed nearly 400 Palestinians and wounded more than 1800 – Israel’s U.N. ambassador stated Israel rightfully defending itself from continued Hamas rocket attacks within her borders. Prime Minister Ehud Olmdert forewarned the offensive “is liable to continue for some time” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared it as an “all-out war against Hamas and its branches.”


By affirming Israel’s “right to self defense” and supporting Israel’s contention that the onus is on Hamas to renew the truce, President Bush’s administration highlighted its remarkably predictable political incompetence and tone deaf moral vacancy by squandering yet another precious opportunity to remedy – at least rhetorically – the festering, radioactive sore that is the Palestinian human rights crisis in Gaza and West Bank. Continuing to spin the broken record, his administration condones Israel’s brazen and repeated violations of international law, while simultaneously denying Palestinian human rights at the precarious risk of destabilizing a hostile and volatile Middle East region.


It goes without saying that this sad reality fails to absolve the illegality of Palestinian violence directed against Israel and her civilians. Hamas’ infractions of international law should be strongly condemned by both the United States and the international community, including Arab countries, many of which espouse reactionary, anti-Semitic rhetoric. But such actions do not justify an escalation into outright war – one in which civilian causalities are almost a certainty due to the density of Gaza – any more than the Israeli blockade of Gaza would justify suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The answer to a festering conflict is to take steps towards resolution, not spiral the conflict into madness.


Although President elect Obama conveniently remained silent on the current hostilities and deferred to President Bush, in the summer, nonetheless, he endorsed Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets by stating, “If someone were sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do anything to stop it.”


One wonders if President elect Obama’s principles of safety, dignity and self defense apply to Palestinians as well? If Obama and President Bush’s daughters were forced to suspend their emergency hospital operations due to fuel shortages, beg for 300 essential medicines, drink contaminated water that causes malnutrition and anemia in children, eat bread made of animal feed, and renounce electricity because their main power plant was forced to shut down, what would they do?


That hypothesis tragically exists as a reality for Gaza residents, some of the poorest people on Earth, who have survived Israel’s nearly two-month embargo and blockade that followed two years of frequent and devastating closures. Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), who called the Gaza humanitarian crisis “disastrous,” said the agency has been unable to get needed medical supplies into Gaza for more than a year, because of Israel’s blockade of border crossings.


However, last summer at AIPAC’s annual conference, in what devolved into an embarrassing competition of one-upmanship, both President elect Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton pledged unyielding support for Israel. Obama promised he would “never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security,” meanwhile Clinton affirmed that “The United States stands with Israel now and forever.” 


In order to truly act upon his promise of “change,” President elect Obama needs to quickly revoke Israel’s perennial carte blanche, “Get out of International Jail” Monopoly card for the sake of ensuring long-term American and Israeli security and eventually winning the “War on Terror.” It would bear reminding that U.S. policy in Israel and Palestine is one of Bin Laden’s main justifications for his global, violent jihad against Americans and sadly remains a highly successful recruitment ploy for Al Qaeda amongst disenfranchised Muslims worldwide.


Furthermore, it warrants mentioning that the brutality of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians has transcended the bipolar framework of an “Arab vs. Jewish thing” and is now recognized internationally as a shameful example of human rights violations.


After visiting Israel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who opposed apartheid in South Africa, stated he saw “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.” He offered Israel would “never get true security and safety through oppressing another people.” Commenting on Israel’s policies in Gaza and West Bank, President Jimmy Carter controversially declared it existed as “a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights.”


The United States could publicly acknowledge the lopsided and oppressive relationship existing between the nation of Israel and its Palestinian refugees by refusing to implicitly or explicitly endorse and rationalize Israel’s latest offensive incursion as simply a “defensive security measure.” Yet, by continuing to vocally defend Israel as the only advocate and partner of peace while perpetually blaming Palestinians as the sole aggressor, the United States recklessly obfuscates the reality of an Israeli blitzkrieg that repeatedly bombards a beleaguered Palestinian refugee population with an inordinately superior and sophisticated military might.


This changed tone, which would reflect fairness and nuance, signals to the Muslim world that the U.S. does not blindly and unconditionally endorse Israel’s prejudicial and racist treatment of Palestinian refugees, its building of illegal settlements on West Bank and Gaza lands, its illegal, extra judicial killings and kidnappings, and it’s most recent gratuitous violence unleashed on Gaza civilians. 


Finally, the loss of innocent Palestinian life in relation to Israeli life should not merely be treated as tragic, but necessary, “collateral damage.” Both need to be afforded dignity and value as human beings, who are neither favored nor condemned for sake of advancing narrow-minded foreign policy initiatives and strengthening expedient political alliances.




8 thoughts on “Unfair and Unbalanced: The U.S. Response to the Gaza Crisis

  1. Thanks for your perspective, Wajahat.

    Meanwhile, here’s Glenn Greenwald at Salon today:
    The degree of mandated orthodoxy on the Israel question among America’s political elites is so great that if one took the statements on Gaza from George Bush, Pelosi, Hoyer, Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, and randomly chosen Bill Kristol-acolytes and redacted their names, it would be impossible to know which statements came from whom. They’re all identical: what Israel does is absolutely right. … total, lockstep uniformity almost more unyielding than what one finds among Israeli leaders themselves.

  2. Well said Wajaht. It is time for US citizens to finally get conscious of and discriminate between Judaism and the Zionist policies of Israel. Israel needs a constitution that acknowledges and enforces the equal rights under the law and Liberty of all as the foundational law of the land. A government and system of laws based upon such a foundation is its only path to legitimacy and a sustainable stability. The US should not only cease to support the current government of Israel but should sanction it and pressure it to become an actual democratic state. Would doing so change the nature of Israel? Yes, and of the entire region – for the better.

  3. It goes without saying that this sad reality fails to absolve the illegality of Palestinian violence directed against Israel and her civilians.


    What the fuck is wrong with you people? And by “you people” I mean everyone who has a fundamental misunderstanding of human rights. Not only that, but NATURAL LAW.

    If your land is occupied, your people being killed on a daily basis, your means for survival cut off and your population squeezed tighter and tighter on a daily basis, and with no relief in sight and indeed with almost every world government and “leader” speaking out against you, WHAT THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO?

    Time after time I read these garbled screeds where people palce blame on the victim and ignore their rights in the misbegotten attempt to be “fair and balanced”. Yet they always miss the bigger reality: ISRAEL EXISTS ON LAND STOLEN FROM THE PALESTINIANS. It is the right, nay the DUTY, for every Palestinian to fight for what is rightfully theirs.


    I say, FUCK Israeli civilians. Let a million rockets land on their heads and kill every last one of them. I don’t care what their politicial affiliation or what sentiments they harbor towards the Palestinians. They are occupying land stolen from the people of Gaza, and as such they are legitimate targets for attack.

    Anyone who does not understand this might as well drill a hole in their head and let their brains ooze out because you just don’t need them.


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  5. Bomb them into ashes. Bulldoze any remaining structures to the ground. Then salt the grounds so that nothing will grow for a thousand years. Then maybe the psychopathology of the Arab / Palestinian / Muslim world will end.

  6. Well, we’re certainly getting all points of view here. In response to abraham I would like to say that no matter how unjust the creation of the state of Israel may have been to the Palestinian people the fact as it stands today is that it was created and it does exist and I can not foresee any scenario where Israel will cease to exist and the land will return to its previous owners anytime soon. To leopard I would like to paraphrase a quote from Will Rogers who said, “If you fight a man, and you knock him down, and then you go over and start kicking him and you just keep kicking and kicking him, sooner or later he’s going to get up and fight you again.” The other fact on the ground is that there are some three million Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories. There are many who would prefer the Arab population just conveniently disappear but, even if they were inclined to leave their ancestral homes they have nowhere else to go and, oddly, they refuse to just die quietly. They can look across the borders to Lebanon and Jordan and see the fate of their countrymen who allowed themselves to be forced out of their homes. Forty years later they are still living in dead end refugee camps. The lesson is pretty clear, they must stay in their land and make a country for themselves. The conditions they have been forced to endure for the past four decades are unimaginable to the average citizen of the world.
    Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are going away. There will be no peace there until the Palestinians are allowed to live in their own homes without “settlers” taking their land and bypass highways dividing their hopes and Gaza being sealed up like a giant open air prison. Both sides are going to have to come to grips with reality. The Palestinians have almost no power, Israel has all the power. I only ever met one Israeli who wanted to annex the occupied territories. I think most Israelis would rather have a two state solution but only Israel has the power to make that happen.

  7. Moral relativism is something we all inherently have as part of our psychological make up. We use our internal moral sensors to gauge right from wrong on a person-person basis. In a collective society this same moral code system gets reflected and amplified.

    So i guess “moral relativism” is perhaps a good term however I’d use cultural relativism to avoid perpetuation of a religio-politico war in your blog.

    Besides….what is your goal for publishing these ideas?

    Very semantic I know but whatever. oh and great insights.

    Walaikum Salaam

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