Israel-Hamas war - Gaza War - Le Hamas palestinien


The United States should join the worldwide calls for a ceasefire

Children in Gaza Killed by Israeli Airstrikes — Shutterstock

In an Oct 23 article on Medium, former President Barack Obama condemned the “unspeakable brutality” of the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas on Israel. Hamas murdered 1,400 Israeli civilians during its surprise attack — including children and entire families — and kidnapped more than 200 hostages.

Obama also strongly endorsed President Joe Biden’s pledge that the United States would support Israel in its military campaign against Hamas, which includes a request to Congress for $14 billion in military aid. At the same time, in a carefully worded statement, Obama cautioned Israel to avoid civilian casualties.

“How Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters,” Obama said. In particular, it matters — as President Biden has repeatedly emphasized — that Israel’s military strategy abides by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations.”

Obama’s statement echoed an earlier communication by State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, who told reporters that protecting “innocent civilian life…is the responsibility of any democracy. It’s what differentiates us from terrorist groups like Hamas.”

Israeli airstrikes kill civilians

But the U.S. public posture regarding the defense of civilian life in Gaza could be compared to the darkest of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. It does not match reality. It has not achieved the intended result.

Instead, the public sympathy that Israel received after the Hamas attack has turned into horror as daily Israeli airstrikes massacre Palestinian civilians with impunity.

As of Oct. 25, the “Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 5,791 people have been killed” by Israel’s relentless bombardment, many of them children. The Health Ministry is under the control of Hamas.

Israel recently escalated its bombing campaign, “hitting residential buildings and killing dozens of people,” Al Jazeera reported. The most recent figures indicate that the total number of deaths has increased to “7,028 Palestinians.”

When asked by a reporter about the number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza, Biden’s response stripped away the diplomatic niceties in the U.S. position and prompted a backlash.

“…I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said. “I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war.”

In a few words, “Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch,” countered Biden’s assertion. Shakir “told The Washington Post: ‘Everyone uses the figures from the Gaza Health Ministry because those are generally proven to be reliable.’”

Ground invasion begins

After cutting off all phone and Internet communication in Gaza, Israel began a “full ground invasion” into Northern Gaza, BBC reported on Oct. 29, an anticipated move that is expected to increase civilian casualties.

Rather than holding the line on civilian deaths, Israel has interpreted support from the US as a green light to punish the Gaza Strip and its entire captive population as it sees fit.

Since 2005 Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza, an area that along with the West Bank is illegally occupied by Israel, restricting the flow of individuals and supplies in and out of the territory. The borders are closed, so civilians in Gaza are trapped in a war zone.

After the attack by Hamas, Israel extended the blockade, prohibiting water, food, fuel, and medical supplies from getting in and creating an enormous humanitarian problem for the 2.3 million residents of Gaza.

Israeli war crimes

Avril Benoît, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, told “CBS Mornings” that because of the blockade, “hospitals are overwhelmed and experiencing shortages of supplies, medicine and fuel for generators.”

Benoît said that in Gaza the “hospitals, one by one, are closing because they just can’t function.”

“This is a form of communal punishment, clearly a violation of international law,” said Egyptian-born journalist Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC. “War crimes by Hamas do not justify war crimes by Israel.”

During the first week of the war, Israel’s defense forces directed over 1 million civilians in Gaza City to evacuate and head south, ostensibly to avoid strikes on the city. But many who followed those instructions died when Israel also bombed southern parts of the country.

Citing the rapidly rising death toll in Gaza and the worsening humanitarian crisis, Nathan Thrall, speaking on MSNBC, condemned the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war on Hamas.

Thrall, the former Director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, said, “The US is complicit in a war crime right now.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Thrall predicted that “this war won’t end with equality for Jews and Palestinians. There will continue to be a regime of forced control…”

U.S. rebuffs global calls for a ceasefire

As the situation in Gaza deteriorates, people around the world — including both Muslims and progressive Jews — are demanding an end to the killing.

The United Nations Human Rights Chief Volker Türk and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for a ceasefire as a first step in stopping the war.

On Oct. 18, the US vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting (CNN). After that resolution failed, on Oct. 27 the “U.N. General Assembly…approved a nonbinding resolution calling for a ‘humanitarian truce’ in Gaza.” The U.S. and “all European Union members” voted against the motion.

While continuing to express concern for the plight of civilians, Biden insists that Hamas free “all its hostages” before discussions on a ceasefire can take place. At the same time, the hostages — and all civilians in Gaza — remain at risk while the war continues and the prospects for a regional conflict increase.

Despite U.S. intransigence, the demands for a ceasefire will not end. In fact, they are likely to multiply as Israel expands its ground offensive and air attacks in Gaza.

Jewish-Arab solidarity

In Israel, Jewish-Arab solidarity in the wake of the attack by Hamas and Israel’s relentless retaliation against Gaza has become much more difficult. “[S]peaking out has become dangerous — even for simple expressions of condolence for civilian deaths in Gaza,” NPR reported.

Mass arrests of Arabs also are taking place 24/7 in Israel, Dave Zirin wrote in The Nation. So far “more than 5,000 Palestinians,” including 4,000 laborers from Gaza and 1,000 others from “the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem,” have been detained.

Nevertheless, in countries around the world, Muslims and progressive Jews have been at the forefront of protests against the war. Muslims in countries across the Middle East have “demanded an end to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.”

On Oct. 18, thousands of Jewish activists in the U.S. staged a protest on Capitol Hill to demand a ceasefire. “The action was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, two of the largest US Jewish groups calling for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Hundreds were arrested at the Grand Central Terminal in New York on Oct. 27 in another of several protests organized by the Jewish Voice for Peace.

News coverage available to the entire world has shown that an ongoing massacre of civilians will not deter Israel from its goal of crushing Hamas. Protecting Palestinian lives is not even a priority. The peace movement — especially activists in the U.S. — must demand that the Biden administration change course and push for a ceasefire before it’s too late.

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