SAN FRANCISCO — Israel must yield to pressures from the United States and to the dictates of both international law and basic morality and immediately desist its destruction of the Gaza Strip.
There is simply nothing that justifies slaughter of innocent Palestinians on a mass scale. More than 1,200 Palestinians are dead, including more than 300 children. Approximately 80 percent have been civilians.
That is, of course, predictable when the most powerful military in the Middle East bombards a population of 1.8 million Palestinians, half of whom are 17 or younger, and who are literally penned into what amounts to an open-air prison. More than 215,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, and 1.2 million face disrupted water and sewage service.
Israel’s well-oiled public relations machine has been hustling to convince the world that Hamas is killing its own people — and it is not Israelis in the tanks, fighter cockpits, drone control rooms and military headquarters who are meting out death.
Yet when all the obfuscations and diversions are compared to a video of a doctor extracting shrapnel from the back of a 2-year-old Palestinian boy without anesthesia — medical supplies being in short supply thanks to Israel’s seven-year siege of the Gaza Strip — the truth gets harder to deny.
Sadly, that truth continues to escape U.S. politicians, from Hillary Clinton, speaking to Jon Stewart on the "Daily Show," to the Senate, which voted 100-0 on a resolution defending Israel’s onslaught.
Or perhaps, instead, it just yields to a more compelling truth of American politics: There is no electoral advantage in demurring from Israel’s policies, whereas obeisance to the pro-Israel lobby bears rich rewards.
Unfortunately for us common citizens, our government’s reflexive backing of Israel stirs enmity against us in the world — a dynamic that will surely have future consequences that run from bad to worse.
This is the third major military attack Israel has launched against the Gaza Strip, after killing 1,385 in 2008-2009, and 167 in 2012. Following each, Hamas has retooled and come back stronger, more inventive and more lethal.
This round, Palestinian fighters have killed, to date, 48 Israeli soldiers, along with three Israeli civilians. Hamas’ gritty military performance has won both grudging admiration from Israeli commanders, and support among all Palestinians, including in the West Bank.
A final reckoning is yet due, but it appears that Hamas, which had been reeling following the 2013 military coup overthrowing a friendly Egyptian government, has been politically resurrected. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, ever compliant to U.S. initiatives, has been consigned to political irrelevancy.
Can Israel’s leaders be blind to these developments? Or, now that the U.S.-sponsored peace talks have collapsed, is this the latest distraction from Israel’s relentless colonization of the West Bank that has effectively scuttled the two-state solution supported by the international community?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came strikingly close to outright rejection of a Palestinian state in claiming, recently, that Israel would always maintain forces in the Jordan Valley. Until then, that rejection had been legible only on the ground, in the steady expansion of Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements.
Thankfully, Secretary of State John Kerry is now addressing the underlying causes of the tension along the Israel-Gaza border, including, primarily, Israel’s relentlessly cruel siege against the Gaza Strip, which has impoverished and suffocated Palestinians there. Israel’s near hysterical response — senior officials deemed Kerry’s truce proposal a “strategic terrorist attack” — is a measure of how indulged that nation has become, and how unhinged from basic human decency.
It is the right of no nation to militarily occupy and violently suppress another for decades, and the sooner Israel grasps that reality, the better for us all.
George Bisharat is a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law and writes frequently about the Middle East.