Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Obama and Gaza

Continuing my observations on President Obama's recent press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, let's turn to his remarks on Gaza. Some people have taken it as a positive sign that Obama actually raised the subject. So let's see exactly how he did so.

Obama broached the subject by saying "I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed." Another one of those "implicit future tenses" ("has to be addressed"? When? After hundreds more die and tens of thousands spend more months living in tents? How about addressing it right now?), but at least he said it "has to be addressed," right? So what were the very next words out of his mouth?

"Now, I was along the border in Sderot and saw the evidence of weapons that had been raining down on the heads of innocents in those Israeli cities, and that’s unacceptable. So we’ve got to work with the Egyptians to deal with the smuggling of weapons and it has to be meaningful because no Prime Minister of any country is going to tolerate missiles raining down on their citizens’ heads."
So the first thing that comes to mind when addressing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is...putting an end to weapons smuggling. After that we'll get to the starving people. No rush.

Obama followed that touching expression of concern for the residents of Sderot with his not nearly as touching concern for the residents of Gaza:

"On the other hand, the fact is, is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can’t even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel’s long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward."
Note that what's happening to the residents of Sderot is "unacceptable"; what's happening to the people of Gaza is "not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security"! Even his "concern" for the people of Gaza is framed as a concern for Israel!!

As for the effects of the blockade? Not a word. As of last August (can't find more recent figures), 241 Gazan patients had died as a result of the lack of medical care (inability to obtain medicines, lack of permission to cross the border to obtain treatment in an Israeli hospital, etc.); as noted in the post below, two more were added to that list just yesterday. The U.S. could do something about that blockade of Gaza overnight by withdrawing its own support and participation; they don't even need to "pressure" Israel or Egypt to do anything, or threaten to cut off aid. Imagine, instead of the puny "Free Gaza" boats sailing into Gaza with a day or two's worth of supplies, if a U.S. warship (or peaceship if you prefer, but they'll need to be armed to make sure the Israelis take no action) filled with hundreds of tons of supplies were to sail up to Gaza.

I'd call what Obama had to say crocodile tears for Gaza, except honestly, I don't even think his sympathy extended that far; as noted, his "sympathy" for Gaza was actually a concern for Israel.

Yesterday, in California, voters voted down a series of propositions which were designed to reduce the budget deficit. As a result, more teachers will be laid off, more social services of all kinds cut. Meanwhile, the billions of dollars of U.S. military aid flowing to Israel (and Pakistan and Egypt and I won't even mention our own military spending in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere) each year goes on unabated. Concerned about cutbacks in education and other social services? I think we all know where that money has gone.

On June 6, there is an opportunity for the people of the U.S. to send a message to President Obama and the world about the need to lift the siege of Gaza. Protests will be held around the world, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C..

Why stop here? There's more...

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