An opinion piece in today's International Herald Tribune by Yossi Alpher, formerly of Tel Aviv University and now co-editor of bitterlemons.org, reminds us of the backdrop to the current war: An economic blockade of Gaza--that is, collective punishment of the entire population--for having democratically elected Hamas (a development that the Israelis are entirely responsible for, having given nothing to Abbas and other moderate Palestinians.) Alpher points out:
For the past year and a half, Israel, with the full backing and encouragement of the quartet of Middle East mediators (the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia), as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even the West Bank-based PLO, has maintained an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Generally it has allowed into Gaza only the equivalent of the UN minimum number of calories required daily for subsistence, multiplied by the 1.5 million or so population of the Gaza Strip, along with minimal medical supplies and fuel.
This economic-warfare strategy against Gaza has failed totally; indeed, it has proven counterproductive. Now is the right time for all involved to reconsider its usefulness and thereby raise a major contribution to long-term cease-fire efforts.
Alpher, who is Israeli, also argues:From Israel's standpoint, if Hamas wants to Islamize Palestinian society, that's the Palestinians' business, not ours. There is no border dispute with Hamas in Gaza; most Israelis just want to be left alone to live their lives peaceably. Now, as a cease-fire looms, we might stand a better chance of achieving this objective if we, and our moderate Arab neighbors and friends in the West, stop starving Gazans.
And he concludes that Israeli's co-conspirators in collective punishment must also take responsibility:
Because Israel's neighbors and the international community have been complicit in this counterproductive economic blockade and the widespread humanitarian suffering it has generated, it is incumbent upon them as well as Israel to reconsider it.
That's a pretty mild proposal, isn't it--stop trying to starve the Gazans into submission? But for an international community that has accepted Israeli's wanton assaults on a civilian population without lifting a finger to stop it (more than 300 children dead, remember), it might seem like a radical idea. On Tuesday we shall know whether Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will fill the moral vacuum left by the world's cynicism and callousness.
Israel's "friends." Just an afterthought here. It would appear that Israel is going to be leaving Gaza soon, leaving behind more than 1000 dead and having achieved none of its goals. Hamas is still in power and still firing rockets. To make matters worse for Israel and its allies, the assault on Gaza has galvanized much of world opinion against the Jewish state, increased the likelihood of terrorism against Israeli and American targets for years to come, marginalized Mahmoud Abbas, and possibly set back chances for peace in the region (although that last point depends almost entirely on the attitude that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton take; this is their moment.) So all those great friends of Israel--the Alan Dershowitz's for whom anything the country does is just A-okay, the Senators and Representatives who gave near-unanimous support to Israel's barbaric actions, the opinion writers for the New York Times--have led their great ally down the garden path of self-delusion and moral bankruptcy. Was it good for the Jews? No, not at all. But sometimes even your best friends won't tell you that.
Someone must stop the madness. So says an Israeli correspondent for Ha'aretz. If Israelis are free to say it, why aren't Americans?