Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Voices for Justice

Stimulating New Discussions

BY: DEAN PRESTEMON


Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:29 AM CST, The Tribune, Ames
The vastly disproportionate response by Israel against Hamas in Gaza deserves worldwide condemnation. More than 1,000 Palestinians (including 300 children) have now been killed by Israeli air and ground attacks. These aggressive military actions were initially justified as retaliation against Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that had reportedly killed seven Israelis in the previous three years. Since the offensive began, 13 Israeli combatants have lost their lives.

The Israelis claim hey have expended great effort to avoid harming civilians is just not credible; their armed forces must know that, in this densely populated area with these type of attacks, a large number of women, children and other noncombatants will certainly end up as casualties. When challenged, official Israel expresses little regret and simply blames Hamas and the innocent victims. Furthermore, Israeli blockades prevent Palestinian civilians from fleeing Gaza and have frustrated many international relief efforts.

Anna Balzer, Jewish Fulbright Scholar, opined it would be criminal to bombard the entire population of Israel for the crimes of their government, but that is exactly what is happening in Gaza. Rabbi Michael Lerner has written that these Israeli attacks and the devastating loss of life is a humanitarian disaster and is creating more and more anger at Israel around the world even in countries that had no previous history of anti-Semitism or antagonism toward Israel.

In the face of this unwarranted, excessive use of military force by Israel, political leaders and the mainstream media in the United States have typically been either supportive of Israel’s “right to defend itself” or just silent. This is an incredibly biased, irresponsible response; official revulsion at the widespread civilian casualties in Gaza should have been immediate and unequivocal. Columnist Rekha Basu recently observed that solidarity with the Jewish people does not demand uncritical acquiescence to a bellicose Israeli government or military and that constructive negotiations offer a much better potential for improving Israeli security than use of armed force.

Unfortunately, the Bush administrations obvious, overwhelming favoritism toward Israel in this conflict has made it impossible for the United States to be considered an honest broker. Furthermore, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has essentially dissipated any moral authority this country may have once possessed in that part of the world.

Negotiating an acceptable two-state solution offers the best hope for finally resolving this long-standing conflict and bringing a durable peace to this troubled region. The new Obama administration is uniquely positioned to stimulate productive discussions; every effort should be made to enlist the cooperation and assistance of Middle East countries, our European allies, and the United Nations. The alternative is continuing instability, hatred, violence and suffering in the region.

Dean R. Prestemon

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